Brexit Transition Countdown | UK government publishes ‘Border Operating Model’ setting out major changes to procedures for importing and exporting goods after the transition period

Written on 14 Jul 2020

How the EU-GB border will work for the import and export of goods from January 2021

The UK government yesterday issued its much-anticipated 'Border Operating Model', detailing the processes for moving goods between the European Union and Great Britain from 1 January 2021.

The full 206 page document is here. At the end of this note there are links to further related guidance that was issued by the government and by HMRC yesterday.

Everything is different after the end of the transition period

At 11.00 p.m. London time on 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom will leave the EU's Single Market and the Customs Union.

One result will be significant changes to procedures for moving goods between the EU and Great Britain.

Full border controls on goods movement will be imposed immediately on goods moving from GB into the EU.

Similarly, full border controls will be imposed on goods moving from the EU to GB, but those will be implemented in three stages up to 1 July 2021.

Separate rules will apply for goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland. Those rules will be developed under the Northern Ireland / Ireland Protocol set out in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, and are not addressed in the Border Operating Model published by the UK yesterday (or in this note).

The Core Model and the three stages for importing goods from the EU to GB

Some changes will apply to all goods movement, and those processes are called the 'Core Model'. As mentioned above, this will be introduced in stages between 1 January and 1 July 2021.

The processes of the Core Model – customs declarations and duties, VAT, and safety and security declarations – will apply to all goods movements between GB and the EU.

There will also be 'Additional Requirements' on top of the Core Model processes. Those will affect only specific goods movements, and cover the need for special certifications, entering the country at specific locations, and undergoing additional border checks. Further requirements apply to controlled and prohibited goods.

From January 2021

Traders importing standard goods will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, and there will be additional requirements for specific imports (for example, food). These are set out in the section of the Border Operating Model titled 'Importing Stage 1: January 2021'.

From April 2021

There will be some increased requirements for specific imports; see the Border Operating Model, 'Importing Stage 2: April 2021'.

From July 2021

The new processes will apply in their entirety to all goods, with additional final requirements for specific imports. See the Border Operating Model, 'Importing Stage 3: July 2021'.

The Core Model and exporting goods from GB to the EU

The Border Operating Model also sets out the processes for exporting all goods to the EU, and the additional requirements for specific goods. These will all apply from 1 January 2021 – there is no three stage implementation timetable for exports.

Actions to take now, irrespective of the outcome of the EU-UK negotiations

The processes in the Border Model will apply irrespective of what may be agreed in the future relationship negotiations between the EU and the UK.

As a result, there are various actions businesses can take now to prepare for the introduction of customs controls. These are contained in the 'Preparing for the Future' section of the Border Operating Model, and include:

  • Applying for a GB EORI number
  • Getting a customs intermediary
  • Applying for a duty deferment account
  • Preparing to pay or account for VAT on imported goods
  • Ensuring drivers have correct International Driving Permits
  • Taking additional actions for customs, VAT and excise processes.

…and of course understanding the requirements of the Border Operating Model as they apply to goods a business imports or exports.

Complexity and advice

As the Border Operating Model document disarmingly states, 'customs declarations are complicated'.

The same can be said for many, if not all, of the processes contained in the Model.

As well as the many detailed rules and procedures to be followed and information to be submitted, there will also be new logistical concepts such as the (still in development) 'Goods Vehicle Movement Service' and, for the roll on, roll off freight industry, the (still in development) 'Smart Freight Service'.

Many, if not most, businesses importing from or exporting to the UK will – as the Border Operating Model says – need expert advice in order to prepare for the new world after the end of transition period.

Links to further related guidance

The Border Operating Model document itself is here.

Two useful flowcharts on how to export to the EU from GB, and import into GB from the EU, have been produced by HMRC and are here.

A step-by-step guide to exporting to the EU from GB is here, and to importing from the EU to GB is here.

Guidance on 'getting someone else to deal with customs for you' is here.

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