Border controls that affect imports & exports post Brexit

Since formally leaving the EU on 31 December 2020, the UK and the EU have been operating under a new trade agreement. In this agreement, goods traded in between the UK and the EU shall not be subject to any tariffs or quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin. However, Customs formalities will be required by both parties in customs areas, and VAT and certain other duties shall apply upon import.


Let’s look at the different stages of import and export processes and how they are being affected, with a focus on Spanish exporters.

Exporting from Spain

Spanish exporters benefit from the fact that intracommunity operations are very simple with regards to VAT. Previously duty registered in the ROI Register by Spanish exporters, needed to have an EU VAT Number and to be registered in the VIES (VAT Information Exchange Service). If both importers and exporters have an EU VAT Number, exporters will issue a VAT Free invoice to the buyer. This rule changes if one of the parties does not have the EU Vat Number.

In contrast, extra community operations are subject to a number of additional formalities, such as obtaining the EORI Number and issuing a number of documents (depending on the commodity to be exported). From the Spanish perspective, and although export invoices are VAT exempted, the main issue is that the goods will have to be cleared at customs before entering the UK and therefore face customs formalities.

Brexit changes in customs policy

The main impact of Brexit for the UK with regards to imports and exports is that it is now regarded as a third party, thus triggering the need to process imports through customs. EU Regulation 952/2013 of the European Parliament is no longer applicable in the UK.

In order to try to minimise the impact on the UK’s economy, the UK Government decided to implement border controls in January and again in April and June 2021. Hence, from 1 January 2021, standard goods arriving in the UK require a EIDR (Entry in Declarant’s Record) as part of the simplified customs declaration process is made. Importers are allowed a six month period to carry out customs declarations, and checks are only carried out on controlled goods such as toxic chemicals and excise goods like alcohol or tobacco, high-risk live animals, and plants.

The initial plan was to implement an intermediate step on 1 April and proceed to full implementation on 1 July, when full safety and security declarations would have been compulsory. However, pursuant to a written statement made on 11 March, the UK Government has decided to postpone both the planned intermediate step on 1 April, and the full implementation scheduled for 1 July. The next significant date in the calendar is now 1 October 2021, from when additional requirements will be necessary, especially for those trading goods subject to sanitary controls, such as products of animal origin, fishery products and live bivalve molluscs, high-risk food and feed not of animal origin, and plants and plant products. Export Health Certificate requirements for products of animal origin and certain animal by-products will come into force at the same time. The UK Government has taken the view that, although most businesses – and the UK’s workforce and infrastructure – would have been ready for the so-called Stage 2 on 1 April, some others needed more time to prepare. 1 January 2022 will bring additional requirements, with a view to setting March 2022 as the date when checks at Border Control Posts will take place on live animals and low risk plants and plant products.

How Brexit is affecting Spanish exporters?

The UK has traditionally been a stronger market for Spanish exporters than Spain has been for UK exporters. Between 2015 and 2019 an average of over 19 billion euros of exports from Spain to the UK took place, in comparison to 11.5 billion euros of UK goods imported into Spain.

All flow of goods between Spain and the UK  from January 2021 ceased to be considered intracommunity transactions and became subject to customs formalities (except for exports of goods to Northern Ireland, which will continue to be declared in the Intrastat system).

Although UK importers are most likely to be affected by the customs regulations, Spanish exporters are also facing related challenges due to Brexit. Customs invoices now must be issued, and goods have to be properly identified with their tariff code to avoid delays. Interestingly to note, the CE marking is no longer mandatory for products sold to UK customers.

Since EU legislation requires that all goods brought out of the EU customs territory be risk assessed and subjected to customs controls before departure, an exit summary declaration (EXS) also needs to be submitted.

How is Brexit affecting UK importers?

Post Brexit, there has been no changes to the general substantive safety requirements required for products to be sold in the UK, with regards to the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR). Neither has there been any change to sector-specific product regulations. The UK Government has expressed a desire to remain closely aligned with EU product safety standards in order to facilitate trade, but the future position remains uncertain. Northern Ireland remains subject to a slightly different regulatory regime and further changes may happen in the future.

Despite product safety requirements remaining the same, there have been two key changes for importing products to the UK:

  • the UK is now a separate market to the EU and it will have an impact on who is considered responsible for the safety of products placed into the UK market.
  • the UK is no longer apart of the EU CE-marking regime, or the Safety Gate/RAPEX regime for sharing defective product information and facilitating recalls.

Product safety responsibility

Schedule 9 of the Product Safety and Metrology Regulations 2019 came into force at the end of 2020 and made several amendments to the GPSR. One of the main effects of these amendments is that the ‘producer’ (to whom the primary product safety obligations attach) may change.

Essentially, the manufacturer of a product will retain the ultimate responsibility for the conformity of the product to the relevant product safety regime, provided that the manufacturer or its representative is established in the UK market. If the manufacturer (or representative) is not established in the UK market, then the importer of the product to the UK will be considered the “producer” of the product, and will assume the responsibility.

Producers must comply with the GPSR and any other relevant product-specific regime and take reasonable steps to ensure that the product is safe to use and minimise risks associated with the product, such as providing labelling and warnings where appropriate and ensuring effective traceability and reporting.

The practical impact on UK importers is that in the absence of the product manufacturer being established in the UK market, the importer will now be considered a producer, and will assume liability for the safety of the product. This exposes many previously unaffected importers to potential defective product claims and places a greater regulatory burden on importers to ensure product safety compliance.

Labelling and reporting

The UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) will no longer be part of the EU CE marking regime for indicating conformity with product safety regimes. From 1 January 2021 the UK requires products being placed on the UK market to bear the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark.

Currently, the technical requirements and the conformity assessment processes and standards used to demonstrate conformity for UKCA purposes remain largely the same as those supporting the EU regime for CE marking. The UK Government may diverge from this position in the future, but currently any product bearing a CE mark should be able to bear a UKCA mark.

In most cases, a transitional period applies so that the UKCA mark will not need to be applied to any products marketed in the UK before 1 January 2022, and products labelled with the CE mark will be considered to have conformed with the updated UK regime. But, in some cases the UKCA mark is already required to be applied to goods placed on the UK market (since 1 January 2021). This requirement does not apply to existing fully manufactured stock, but from 1 January 2023 the UKCA marking must be permanently attached to the product, as opposed to being printed on packaging or applied in any other temporary manner.

Additionally, as of 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer part of the EU RAPEX product safety regime for identifying and sharing product information on defective products and coordinating product recalls. The UK Government intends to set up a similar regime, but until it does, importers do not need to have regard to RAPEX alerts relating to products for sale on the UK market. It may however be sensible to pay attention still if a product is subject to a product recall in the EU, in order to protect importers from potential product liability claims as discussed above.

If you need advice about Brexit and import/export trade legislation, fill in your details below and we’ll be in touch.

5 things the food sector needs to know about Brexit

Although it’s happened Brexit is still very much an ongoing headache for the perishables and food industry. The real reverberations from the UK’s exit from Europe are only just starting to be realised.

It’s been a long and fraught journey to Brexit, with most of the population hoping that they would never have to hear another Brexit debate or argument after the 31st December. However, those hopes are dashed because although the laborious and painstaking EU negotiations are more or less concluded, the real work, dealing with the effects of leaving Europe, is only just starting.

The food sector can’t just ‘action’ Brexit, it’s a delicate balance to ensure that supply chains remain unaffected and relationships with European suppliers are kept on good terms. For speciality products such as regional cheese and niche products, dealings with Europe need to be more than amicable, they need to be highly functioning and as strong as the stinkiest cheese.

Having put our Perishable Movements Limited thinking caps on, we’ve come up with 5 key points that the food and drink sector should remember when dealing with Brexit issues.

1. Getting goods into the UK from Europe
The dawning of Brexit meant that the old rule book for importing goods was thrown out of the window. Post December 31st businesses must have an EORI number starting with a GB to import goods into England, Wales and Scotland. If you’re importing into Northern Ireland, make sure you have an EORI number that begins with XI.

It’s also time to fill out those customs declarations. To find out the rate of duty your business will need to pay and whether you’ll need an import licence you will need to check the commodity code. Next on your import checklist will be to ensure you’re compliant with the marking, labelling and marketing standards.

You can follow the official UK government’s guidelines for importing goods into the UK from Europe here.

How to bring goods into the UK from any country, including how much tax and duty you’ll need to pay and whether you need to get a licence or certificate.

2. Getting goods out of the UK to Europe
The new trade deal set out no quotas on trade between the UK and the EU, if goods meet the relevant rules of origin . Check this link and if relevant, you’ll need an EORI number prefixed with either GB or XI plus a commodity code.

Be aware that there is an added admin burden on companies at the moment and this is causing delays in exports. This is because products deriving from animals such as meat, fish and dairy must have vet-approved export health certificates. Manufactured foods that contain animal products are currently exempt, however this will change in April. Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what this will mean for the perishable goods and food business.

Click here for the government’s official guide to exporting from the UK.

3. Moving goods into Northern Ireland

One of the key issues thrashed out during the Brexit trade deal was that there would be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The agreed trade deal sets out a regulatory border between Britain and Northern Ireland, because Northern Ireland continues to follow some EU rules.

Again added supply chain delays can occur at this point because food products are being checked when moving from the mainland UK to Northern Ireland. Following staff safety concerns and tensions with the new rules, these protocols were suspended on 2nd February. Supermarkets have been given a three-month period of grace which leaves questions hanging over the future of the protocol. As soon as we know more, we’ll update our clients.

For more information about getting goods into Northern Ireland click here.

4. New rules of origin


Some more red tape reveals itself in regard to revised rules of origin. If your business is exporting or importing food or drink to Europe, you’ll need to prove to HMRC that you can claim preference for goods. you are importing or give the person receiving the goods evidence of the origin so they can claim preference.

There’s lots of confusion about this specific part of Brexit trade agreement. You’ve got to make sure your business is following the rules correctly and have the correct proofs in place. Although a free trade agreement is in place with the EU, this doesn’t mean that goods coming into the UK have no import duties or tariffs.

If you need help, feel free to reach out to the PML team. We’re happy to share our experience and knowledge of Brexit compliance:

5. Don’t forget your IDs!

For the team at PML, this last point is our bread and butter. All importers, hauliers and supply staff moving between the EU and the UK must ensure their passport is valid for at least six months. It’s also important to ensure that any employees travelling to Europe have new Global Health Insurance Card which replaces the European Health Insurance Cards (the EHIC cards will be valid until their expiry date). Double check whether your employees need visas or work permits here.

Global Health Insurance Card

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK’s export market

Perishable Movement Limited’s Business Development Manager Robert Haynes explains how the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption to the goods import and export market.


The industry has seen huge uncertainty with prices and cost of transporting goods due to an uncertain global transport system.


Despite the tough market PML has managed Block Space Agreements and Single Carriage Agreements to secure and maintain competitive prices for their customers.


PML continue to work closely with all carriers to ensure customers’ products arrive on time and in perfect condition.

Baffling Brexit rules threaten export chaos, Gove is warned

Business groups tell ministers to sort out bureaucratic mess caused by EU trade deal.

Perishable Movements Limited senior management team remain ready and able to provide advice to government ministers as needed and to importers struggling to navigate the red tape of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.

Ministers must restart trade negotiations with Brussels immediately to sort out the “baffling” array of post-Brexit rules and regulations that now threaten much of the UK’s export trade to the EU, leading business groups have said.

Amid mounting anger among UK firms at cross-border friction they were told would not exist, British manufacturing and trade organisations met Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in an emergency session on Thursday to discuss problems resulting from the deal struck by Boris Johnson with the EU before Christmas.

The prime minister had hailed what he claimed was a “zero-tariff” and “zero-quotas” deal that would allow free and simple access to the single market. Less than a month on, however, Britain’s EU departure appears to be anything but pain-free.Advertisement

One leading figure involved in the talks with Gove described the new rule book as a “complete shitshow”. Another said Gove seemed “very concerned” at hearing reports of problems, after a week in which Marks & Spencer was among leading companies to warn that more bureaucracy would increase costs. The source added: “He [Gove] seemed to realise the full gravity of the situation that is unfolding and about to get worse.”

Gove admitted on Friday that there would be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks.

In the first week after the UK finally left both the single market and customs union, the parcels firm DPD suspended some of its services, bookseller Waterstones halted sales to customers in the EU and UK fishermen warned they would not be able to sell their fresh produce into EU markets because of delays at borders.

There were also problems with consignments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as new border checks caught many businesses unawares. Luxury food store Fortnum & Mason also told customers on its website: “We are temporarily unable to deliver to Northern Ireland or countries in the European Union”, while Debenhams has temporarily shut its online business in Ireland.

Some of the problems are being blamed on a rushed deal, and others on the sheer complexity of arrangements including “rules of origin”, some of which have not been finally determined. Only goods made up largely of parts that originate in the UK qualify as tariff-free.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland business organisation Manufacturing NI, said: “The reason why the UK and EU originally agreed that there would be an implementation period of 11 months was so that people could get their heads around what was needed and assure their businesses were compliant. But we didn’t have that. We had seven days before everyone had to be ready, and one of those was Christmas Day.

“There is a big problem with GB businesses being unaware of their new responsibilities. We have the triple whammy here of Covid, Christmas and new customs rules arriving all at once without any time to adjust.”

Johnson assured Northern Ireland business owners in November 2019 that they would have “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK. “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. If anyone told them they needed to fill in forms, “tell them to ring up the PM and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The government was also facing pressure over its Brexit deal from the SNP. Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, called on the UK government to “pay compensation to Scotland”, claiming a “multibillion compensation package” was needed to mitigate the costs of Brexit in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said much still needed to be negotiated between the UK and EU. “Industry welcomed the trade agreement that avoided the catastrophe of no-deal, as tariffs and quotas would have been a disaster for exporters. However, this is only a starting point, as there are still substantial issues that need ironing out, with many months, if not years, of tough negotiations ahead.

“There are customs experts with 30 years’ experience who are baffled by what the new regulations mean, let alone small- and medium-sized businesses who have never had to deal with the kind of paperwork that is now required. The great fear is that for many it will prove too much and they will simply choose not to export to the EU.”

He also raised fears about the UK car industry, which could be adversely affected by tariffs if EU rules relating to the origins of components used in car manufacture cannot be met. “Having built up seamless and complex supply chains over decades, the automotive sector in the UK is facing a jolt to its systems that places its very future under threat,” he added. “While there is no suggestion multinationals will close plants overnight, we have already seen decisions to build new models placed elsewhere. As those models that have been built in the UK for many years come to the end of their life, we are likely to see a slow puncture for the sector of investment drifting away.”

Dominic Goudie head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation said talks needed to re-start between the UK Brussels.

“Where problems emerge there will need to be further conversations,” he said. “The trade deal provides the means to do that. It is a question of whether is the will to do so” (after so many months of talks.”

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said there were problems that could grow over coming weeks and months.

“The new import/export formalities are proving problematic for many companies. The lack of obvious queues at the border disguises the fact that many trucks are stuck in depots, unable to head to the ports due to their clients failing to provide the necessary documentation and information.”

Source: The Guardian

PML announces innovative solution to border control delays

PML, the global perishable cargo specialist is partnering with transport and logistics company FreshLinc to operate an HMRC / DEFRA approved Border Control Post (BCP) and ERT (bonded warehouse) facility at Fresh Linc’s Spalding HQ, enabling a speedier movement of product from the ports and extending shelf life by up to 48 hours.

The BCP which has been in development for the last four months, will be effective from 1st January 2021 and represents a £400,000 investment. This includes the creation of a purpose-built 10,000 sq ft warehouse with the ability to store 330 pallets; dedicated inspection areas for customs and DEFRA and the training of four new dedicated staff to run the 24-hour operation.

The decision to set up a BCP away from the ports – Spalding is within easy reach of both Dover and Southampton docks – is in direct response to the ongoing delays and excessive queues which currently impede the onward movement of freight. The imperative to take action is amplified given the specialist and sensitive nature of PML’s cargo – the majority of consignments require temperature-controlled conditions – and the anticipated further disruptions likely to be caused post Brexit.

The long-standing and trusted working relationship between the two companies has enabled a seamless journey from the inception of the idea to create a dedicated BCP at FreshLinc’s 70,000 sq ft site, to completion of all the works required to meet the demanding criteria as defined by HMRC and DEFRA.

“This is a great opportunity for us to work with PML to maintain the continuation of the food supply chain especially against the backdrop of the uncertain times we are now facing as a result of the challenges posed by Brexit and the coronavirus. The BCP is a perfect example of two like-minded businesses coming together to provide an innovative solution to an industry problem.”

Lee Juniper, Operations Director at FreshLinc.

“This venture will enable us to move product much faster from the ports, cut down on wasted journeys and should ultimately deliver a minimum of 24-48 hours additional shelf life on all our customers’ products. Our priority is to guarantee the safe and timely transfer of goods, ensuring that there are no breaks in the cold chain. By creating a remote BCP, we are no longer constrained by the issues at the ports and PML is able to operate and manage its own facility.”

PML Sales Director, Nick Finbow.