Transport of goods with customs clearance between the UK and the EU – Brexit in practice

Since January 1st 2021, in order to transport goods between the European Union and the United Kingdom one has to go through the import control and full customs clearance. 

Brexit, as that’s what we’re talking about, is the colloquial name used for the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union structures, initiated by the referendum in 2016. As the third party countries that are not part of the European Economic Area, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland loose privileges and facilities related to movement of people and goods within the EU. One of the main consequences of Brexit is the restoration of the border and all customs formalities between the European Union and the United Kingdom from 01/01/2021. However, many issues with the “EU divorce” are still under negotiation and talks, with some cases implemented in a so-called phase approach.

To substantially reduce the number of controls and procedures, the option of transporting goods under the transit procedure as the United Kingdom remains part of the Common Transit Convention. Such solutions are also used when transporting goods thorough other countries, such as Norway, Switzerland, Turkey or Serbia. By giving goods the “EU customs status” in England, there’s a possibility to transport goods to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland without the obligatory duty payment, in a specified period of time, while using customs lead seals.

EXPORT, how to prepare for the transport of goods from the UE to the UK?

Transporters from the EU can make an unlimited number of journeys to the Great Britain. Due to world pandemic restrictions, when entering the EU it is required to present a negative COVID-19 test, carried out not earlier than 72 hours before the date of crossing the border. Currently, as of January 30th 2021, there is no obligation to present the test result when entering the UK.

A driver, when leaving the EU, should have appropriate customs documents, such as:

  • The Community licence;
  • Insurance for the vehicle and trailer – (having the International Motor Insurance Card, the so-called Green Card makes it much easier);
  • Driver’s professional qualification certificate, driving licence and a passport valid for at least 6 months;
  • EORI number – EORI number can be obtained through your local Tax and Customs platform
  • GMR ( Goods Movement Record) – the registration number for the vehicle with goods (a transporter is obliged to register their vehicles in advance in the Goods Vehicle Movement Service system (GVMS)

Apart from that, each time the driver must have a correctly completed CMR consignment note, invoices, packaging list, EX.

It is the responsibility of the exporter or importer to choose correct procedure, appropriate tot he transport goods and to provide the carrier with comprehensive documentation. Since July 1st, 2021, other customs procedures will also apply.

  • Prenotification (MRN), which is the British entry number of the EORI entrepreneur number, if the declaration is submitted by an importer from the UK. The MRN is the smart border system for handling trucks that use ferries and Eurotunnel crossing. It is possible to report the carriage on the https://www.douane.gouv.fr website to obtain the barcode with the MRN number. The carrier will automatically be directed to the green or orange line depending on the status of transported goods. 
  • The Common Transit Customs (CTC) – the driver must have a TAD number, which informs that the goods have been released from the transit procedure by the sender or the LRN number. If the goods weren’t release from the procedure, then a declaration at the customs office is necessary (LRN number can be found on the T1 document).
  • The Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) – the driver is obliged to have the ATA carnet, which is shown at the border and receives a customs stamp.
  • TIR procedure – the driver carries out the transport under TIR Convention:
  1. In case of using the standard procedure, they must have a certificate of approval of the road vehicle for transport of goods under customs seal – the TIR carnet (after completing the journey, the TIR carnet must be returned to the entrepreneur or the transport company.)
  2. For the simplified procedure, only the EX export declaration
  • ENS – entry summary declaration.

Cargo documents must be shown when entering the port. An employee at the ticket counter scans EX codes. When using the T1 declaration before unloading, it is necessary to visit the customs office before unloading the goods. The United Kingdom does not announce routine checks of vehicles entering the country, but border authorities may check vehicles for security and customs offences.

IMPORT, transporting goods into and entering the EU empty

Two cabotages from and through the UK are allowed, providing that they are carried out at the course of the European Union and within 7 days of unloading in the UK. The carrier’s task is to present a complete company documentation and drivers must take the mandatory COVID-19 test in Kent. Additionally, since January 1st 2021, it is prohibited to import from the EU any goods of animal origin such as meat, dairy products, or live sea food for personal use (not applicable to goods on trailers). The driver must be aware that the prohibited products may be confiscated during border control. Brexit also reduced the limits on transported alcohol and tobacco products. More details can be found here: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/carry/alcohol-tobacco-cash/index_pl.htm

There also additional impediments such as the ban on parking in Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Maidstone, Swale and Thanet. There’s only a 45-minut-long pause allowed. Special places have been designated for longer stops – breaking the rule may result in a wheel block and a 220 GBP fine. 

A Carrier importing goods from the UK to the EU, apart from personal and company documents listed above, in the part regarding the export of goods from the EU to the UK, should also have goods documents depending on the customs procedure:

  • Prenotification (MRN) – the P2P information ( permission to continue driving), customs declaration, EXS declaration and documents for previously imported goods.
  • The Common Transit Customs (CTC) – TAD number – or LRN number (go to the customs agency with this number to collect T1 document)
  • The Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) – ATA carnet should be handed over to the UK border authorities.
  • TIR procedure – TIR carnet – for ordinary procedure

An EXS Safety and Security Declaration (exit summary declaration) is required for each of the above procedures. For goods exported from the United Kingdom, the EXS information are linked to the export declaration, which is the customs declaration. The declaration must be submitted one hour before the planned Eurotunnel journey, and two hours in advance for Dover sea passage. If a driver is returned from France due to lack of safety declaration, contact the customs broker.

Reality vs. practice

Changes and new regulations may seem very complex, therefore, in case of any doubts, contact dedicated customs agencies directly. This is a new situation, that additionally may change over time, that’s why many agencies don’t keep up with the formalities and customs are delayed. The consequence is hours of waiting for the information, where the Cartier should go with goods for clearance. In such situation, special attention should be paid to the fact that the sender takes care of all the customs formalities and provides necessary information to the carrier in order to prevent situations when additional explanations or documents are required.