Border controls for EU goods imported into Great Britain will be introduced at the end of Transition Period in stages to give businesses affected by coronavirus more time to prepare.

New border controls and procedures confirmed for 2021 as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, formally notifies the EU that the UK will neither accept nor seek any extension to the transition period.

From January 1 2021 the UK will have the autonomy to introduce its own approach to goods imported to the UK from the EU.

Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, and following the announcement in February that the UK would implement full border controls on imports coming into the UK from the EU, the UK has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until July 1 2021. This flexible and pragmatic approach will give industry extra time to make necessary arrangements. The stages are:

  • From January 2021: Traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high risk live animals and plants.
  • From April 2021: All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
  • From July 2021: Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.

The announcement follows this morning’s meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee – the last formal moment to agree an extension to the transition period – at which the Government confirmed the long-standing position that no such extension would be sought.

A new £50m support package will boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector - including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators - providing businesses with further support ahead of the new processes taking effect in July 2021. This funding will support intermediaries with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to help handle customs declarations. Rules will also be changed to remove barriers for intermediaries taking on new clients.

In total, the Government has now provided £84m to grow the customs intermediary sector to encompass EU trade after 2020.

Additionally, the Government has committed today to building new border facilities in the UK for carrying out required checks, such as customs compliance, transit, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks, as well as providing targeted support to ports to build new infrastructure. Where there is no space at ports for new infrastructure, the Government will build new inland sites where these checks and other activities will take place. The government is consulting with ports across the UK to agree what infrastructure is required.

The full government announcement can be read here.

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said any measures to simplify the movement of goods across borders would be 'crucial' to businesses already dealing with higher costs and lower revenues from the COVID-19 crisis. “The UK government should look to prioritise flow, not revenue or bureaucracy,” he added.

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