Posted on January 05, 2022
by Nick Pennington

New post-Brexit customs rules: what they mean for eCommerce businesses

January 1 saw stricter post-Brexit customs rules introduced for companies trading with the EU

New Year’s Day 2022 marked a year since the unprecedented trade agreement was struck between the UK and EU. On the anniversary, new customs rules were introduced to help implement the deal’s policies. Initially, checks are expected to be minimal, but will become increasingly stricter throughout the year.

What new rules are being introduced?

On January 1st, a new set of stricter post-Brexit customs rules came into effect, placing further restrictions on companies trading with the EU. Although the new rules will take some time to be fully integrated, there are some clear changes to adhere to. 

Exports between Great Britain and the EU will now be subject to full customs controls. This means that any goods being brought into Britain will now require all necessary paperwork to be completed before entering. It also mean they’ll require customs clearing before being allowed to leave the port. Moreover, any extra tariffs due must be paid at the time of importation.

  • Goods must be presented to customs and the export declarations must be entered into HMRC systems. This will help determine whether any further physical checks are required.
  • If physical examinations are required, then these will be conducted at an Inland Border Facility, or at the designated customs checking facility within the frontier locations.
  • Goods mustn’t be exported without permission and a message must be sent after departure.
  • To support full customs controls on goods, particularly those locations with limited space or infrastructure, the government introduced the goods vehicle movement service (GVMS).

What checks must take place?

The rules state that any animal and plant-based products require statements of origin certificates to support them. However, these don’t have to be submitted for thorough checks at this time, as is currently the case for goods arriving in the EU and Northern Ireland from Britain. 

All drivers must now also declare their goods and point of origin, however checks are expected to be kept to a minimum until the summer, when regulations are certain to be tightened and checks will be more stringent across the board. 

Why are they being introduced now?

The changes come just a year after the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union. Last year’s landmark agreement is the world’s biggest zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade deal; enabling British businesses to trade freely with Europe while also having access to new, international trading opportunities.

The new rules mark the anniversary of the agreement, after what’s been regarded as a ‘transition year’ for post-Brexit Britain. As the trade deal is phased in, rules and policies around trading in the EU will be introduced to support it, as administrative checks are accelerated.

What impact will the new rules have on EU products arriving in Britain?

Goods arriving into Britain now require all checks and forms to be filled out and completed at least four hours before arriving, or they risk being rejected at the border. Prior to the new changes, HM Revenues and Customs permitted a delay of 175 days for companies submitting customs declarations.

But as of January 1 2022, the ability to delay submissions will end entirely. It’s therefore vital that businesses submit their customs declarations as early as possible, to minimise any potential delays in transportation. There will also be marginally stricter rules on country of origin documents, with goods arriving into Britain requiring declarations. These rules are also expected to be escalated throughout the year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the government will “go further and faster” in taking advantage of the “enormous potential that our new freedoms bring” in 2022. Although there is good reason to be optimistic, businesses should prepare for further disruption as new regulations are enforced.

What will change in the summer?

From July 1 2022, transported goods will undergo more meticulous checks, similar to those already taking place on food products being sent to the EU from Britain. 

Some of the necessary requirements will include:

  • Checks for electronic documents before the product starts its journey 
  • Identification on the seal applied to the consignment checked prior to departure
  • Third physical check when it arrives with country of origin certificates

What type of goods will require three checks?

Animal products e.g. meat, milk, eggs and honey, must include a “Products of Animal Origin” certificate. Similarly, plant-based food products also require a certificate of origin.

All checks will be conducted at the designated Border Control Posts (BCPs) or Control Points, potentially leading to delays and issues at the border. Some of these checks are happening already, for goods arriving in the EU and Northern Ireland from Britain. 

Will further restrictions be introduced?

From September 1, 2022, the same certification and physical checks are set to be introduced for all dairy products imported from the EU. In November, certification and physical checks will be introduced for all remaining regulated products of animal-related products, including fish.

Since the introduction of new rules post-Brexit, HMRC has taken a fairly lenient approach when it comes to punishing drivers showing incorrect documentation. Few penalties have been issued to those showing paperwork discrepancies, but this will change no doubt moving forward.

Currently, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are exempt from such changes, whilst politicians continue negotiations around the Northern Ireland protocol. Goods coming to Britain from the Republic of Ireland will continue under the same rules as before, meaning the 175-day delay will remain in place. Checks on goods going from Britain to the island will also remain the same for now.

For more information regarding the new rules, you can visit the GOV website