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Brexit: "Check, Change, Go!"

The UK Government has published guidelines on the new Border Operating Model and refreshed its guidance on the requirements for exports of certain items from the UK to the EU. In most cases, these changes will come into effect whether or not the UK and the EU conclude a Free Trade Agreement before the end of the year and businesses will need to be up-to-speed by 1st January 2021, come what may.  
The UK Government is stepping up its campaign to alert businesses to the changes coming into effect on 1 January 2021 when the Brexit transition period comes to an end and this week it has published guidelines on the new Border Operating Model and refreshed its guidance on the requirements for exports of certain items from the UK to the EU.

In most cases, these changes will come into effect whether or not the UK and the EU conclude a Free Trade Agreement before the end of the year. While that Agreement might have some impact on UK-EU trade - most notably on tariffs and import duties payable on goods that qualify as UK or EU origin - the outcome of any negotiations is unlikely to affect most of these new rules so businesses will need to be up-to-speed by 1st January come what may.

To pick out some key points:
 
  • Customs Declarations: importers and exporters will need to complete customs declarations for UK-EU trade. Businesses will need: an EORI number; a customs intermediary or an IT system and trained staff to complete declarations themselves; the customs value and commodity code for their goods; and to consider facilitations such as customs freight simplified procedures, warehousing, inward processing, and transit. For imports into the UK from the EU, customs and Safety and Security declarations and duty payments can be deferred for most goods for up to six months. But the EU will not replicate this, so declarations will be needed for exports to the EU from 1 January. Businesses can apply to HMRC for an advance ruling on the commodity code and the origin of their goods. There will be a requirement for pre-lodgement of customs declarations at some UK ports;
 
  • Import VAT: VAT will be levied on consignments of EU goods exceeding £135 in value following the same rates and structures as are applied for Rest of the World imports. VAT-registered importers will be able to use postponed VAT accounting;
 
  • UK Global Tariff: subject to whether a UK-EU Free Trade Agreement is concluded, importers will need to pay customs duties on goods from the EU as set under the new UK Global Tariff, on the basis of the origin, classification and customs value of the imported goods.
 
  • Controlled items: while military and some nuclear items already require an export licence to be sent from the UK to the EU, from 1 January an export licence will be required for ‘dual-use’ items. These are civil items that have potential military or security uses. The licensing requirement covers not only the goods themselves but also their related components, software and technology (including electronic transfers to any person physically located in the EU). Items that are defined as ‘dual-use’ are set out in detailed lists. The UK Government has issued a specific licence for exporting such items to the EU, intended to simplify the process;
 
  • Sanctions: while most current restrictions under the EU sanctions regimes will remain in place at least initially, the UK has introduced a number of changes in the national regulations that will come into force on 1 January. As a result, the sanctions that apply to listed individuals, entities and countries will change in certain cases;
 
  • Waste: exporters and carriers of waste from the UK to the EU will need to complete notification and movement forms, and exporters need to check that any transport of waste within the EU is carried out by an appropriately authorised waste carrier. Some EU Member States require shipments of waste to enter, or exit, though a designated Customs Office. Authorisation is required for each EU country that waste is transported through or into;
 
  • Live animals and animal products: exporters to the EU will need to fulfil a number of requirements, including acquiring an export health certificate. Specific rules apply for livestock and for other animals such as pets, horses, and fish, among others. There will be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high-risk live animals (cows, pigs and sheep) and plants from January. Products of animal origin will require pre-notification of relevant health documentation from April. UK checks on imports from the EU will begin at UK Border Control Posts from July;
 
  • Endangered species: certain species may no longer be freely moved between the UK and the EU after 1 January.  Exporters will need to complete CITES documents, to use a designated point of entry or exit, and to present the documents to Border Force for endorsement;
 
  • Regulated plants and plant products (including all plants for planting, most vegetables, most fruits, cut flowers and some seeds): exporters to the EU will need to check whether a phytosanitary certificate is required and whether the plants require laboratory testing. The goods may be subject to checks at the EU border;
 
  • Wood packaging and timber: wood packaging materials (pallets, crates, boxes, etc.)  will need to meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking, and may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU. Exporters of timber may need to supply documentation about its source and legality, to ensure that their customers in the EU and EEA are able to meet the EU Timber Regulation due diligence rules;
 
  • Rough diamonds: from 1 January, all rough diamond exports from the UK to the EU will require Kimberley Process certification from the Government Diamond Office; and
 
  • Northern Ireland: Goods moving between GB, NI and the EU will be governed by the Northern Ireland Protocol. Details are yet to be published.  
 

Businesses trading any goods between the UK and the EU would be well-advised to check now what new requirements will apply after 1 January; to put in place any necessary changes to their procedures to avoid or minimise any disruption; and to ensure their supply chain is ready.
 

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