Cross Border Trade

Context

The UK has agreed a deal with the EU – this is called the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).  If you move goods across borders then you will need to follow the new rules for importing and exporting. 

The first step for both importers and exporters is to ensure that you have a GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. You will need this to complete customs declarations for imports and exports. If you do not yet have one, you can register for free by going to Get an EORI number

The TCA enables zero tariff, zero quotas trade between the UK and EU for goods that meet Rules of Origin requirements.  To claim preferential rates of duty, your product must originate in the EU or UK.

You will need to know how to classify your goods when checking the product specific rules.

If your goods do not meet the rules of origin requirements (or if you cannot prove that the goods meet them) you or your customer will still need to pay Customs Duty. To find out the rate of duty, you will need to classify your goods correctly.
 

Importing goods from the EU

Register your business for importing

Ensure that you have a GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. You will need this to complete customs declarations. If you do not yet have one, you can register for free by going to Get an EORI number

Decide how you will make customs declarations

From 1 January 2021, you will need to make customs declarations when importing goods from the EU. These are the same rules that currently apply to importing goods from the rest of the world.

You can hire someone to deal with customs and transport the goods for you, or you can do it yourself. Most businesses that import goods use a transporter or customs agent.

Classify the goods

You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods that you are importing. This will tell you the rate of duty you need to pay and if you need an import licence.

Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

Establish the origin of the goods

Rules of Origin (RoO) determine the ‘economic nationality' of products when these have been produced using components or materials made in more than one country and are necessary to ensure that the products benefitting from the terms of the TAC are either:

  • wholly obtained from or manufactured in the free trade area itself (in this case, the EU and the UK), or 
  • sufficiently worked or processed there (e.g. by setting a limit on the value of non-originating materials that can be used in order to benefit from the agreement).

To establish whether your goods qualify for preferential rates of duty for import from the EU, you will need to have the correct commodity code for your product. 

Find out if you can delay or reduce your duty payment

If your goods do not meet the rules of origin requirements of the TCA (or if you cannot prove that the goods meet them) you or your customer will still need to pay Customs Duty. You may be able to delay or reduce the amount of duty you pay based on where the goods are from and what you plan to do with them.

Value your goods

You need to pay customs duties and VAT on all imports. How much VAT and duty you pay depends on the value of your goods and the rate of duty you need to pay.

Get a licence or certificate if you need one

You might need to get a licence or certificate if you are importing plant or animal products, high-risk food or feed, medicines, textiles, chemicals or firearms.

Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

Get your goods through customs

If you have appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they will make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

You will then be told how much VAT and duty to pay.  You will also be sent an Import VAT Certificate (C79) in the post as proof you have paid.

Check if you can make the importing process quicker

In some situations, you can delay making a declaration for up to 6 months after you imported the goods.

Claim a VAT refund

If you are VAT registered, you can claim back any VAT you paid on the goods you have imported. You will need your C79.

If you paid the wrong amount of duty or rejected the goods

Keep invoices and records

You must keep records of commercial invoices and any customs paperwork, including your C79.  If you imported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.

 

Exporting goods to the EU

The process for exporting goods to the EU has change. Businesses in Wales need to complete the following actions to continue exporting to EU countries from 1 January 2021.

Register your business for exporting

Ensure that you have a GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. You will need this to complete customs declarations. If you do not yet have one, you can register for free by going to Get an EORI number.

Decide how you will make customs declarations

From 1 January 2021, you will need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU. These are the same rules that currently apply to exporting goods to the rest of the world.

You can make the declarations yourself or hire someone else such as a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent.

Find out whether export licences and special rules apply

You may need a licence or to follow special rules to export restricted goods or to sell certain services abroad and this will includes sales to the EU from 1 January 2021 and apply to:

Follow the right marking, labelling and marketing standards

The product markings required for manufactured goods placed on the EU market from 1 January 2021 depend on the type of goods you will be placing on the market:

  • New approach goods which can use the CE Marking
  • Goods regulated under the old approach (such as chemicals, medicines and vehicles)
  • Non-harmonised goods covered by national legislation

New labelling standards will apply to:

Marketing standards will apply to:

Classify your goods

You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods that you are exporting.  You will need this in order to make your customs declaration. 

How different goods are classified largely determines what duties and controls apply to them.  Other government departments also rely on Tariff classification for licences and other documents.

Please remember that it is your responsibility to get your commodity code and licences right, even if you use an agent.  HMRC can fine you, seize your goods and delay their release from customs if you export goods with the wrong code or licence.

Commodity codes are also used to determine the appropriate import duties payable in your buyer’s country. Try this useful tool on our Export Hub.


Establish the origin of your goods

Rules of Origin (RoO) exist to set out the arrangements for exporters to use in order to prove the originating status of their goods and products.  They determine the ‘economic nationality' of products when these have been produced using components or materials made in more than one country and are necessary to ensure that the products benefitting from the terms of the TAC are either:

  • wholly obtained from or manufactured in the free trade area itself (in this case, the EU and the UK), or 
  • sufficiently worked or processed there (e.g. by setting a limit on the value of non-originating materials that can be used in order to benefit from the agreement).

To establish whether your goods qualify for preferential rates of duty for export to the EU, you will need to have the correct commodity code for your product. 

Agree Incoterms® with your buyer

International Commercial Terms (‘Incoterms’) are internationally recognised standard trade terms used in sales contracts. They are used to make sure buyer and seller know:

  • who is responsible for the cost of transporting the goods, including insurance, taxes and duties
  • where the goods should be picked up from and transported to
  • who is responsible for the goods at each step during transportation

Visit our Export Zone for more information on the use of Incoterms®

Note that VAT isn’t covered by Incoterms® so you will need to specify who pays the VAT (or equivalent) in the destination country.

Find out if you can charge VAT at 0%

Unless you have agreed otherwise with your buyer (see above) you will be able to apply zero-rated VAT to goods exported to the EU from 1 January 2021.  More information on how and when to do this (including the records you must keep) can be found in VAT Notice 703.

Prepare the invoice and documentation for your goods

The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods. 

If you are claiming preferential duty rates for your goods, then you must include a Supplier’s Declaration to confirm that the goods are of UK or EU origin.

When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you are selling them for. List separately any freight or export insurance you included in the price. For free samples, use the market value of the goods.

Get your goods through customs

If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border. If you have chosen to make declarations yourself, you must ensure that you do this before the goods arrive at the port of export.

The goods may be held up at customs, for example if:

  • you do not have the right licences for the goods or business
  • they did not pass inspection
  • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

If this happens you will be told why.  Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help

Get your business ready to move goods to the EU or Common Transit countries

The UK will remain in the Common Transit Convention (CTC) from 1 January 2021.  By using Union and Common Transit, you can move your goods quicker to EU countries and Common Transit countries because:

  • customs declarations and duties are not required at each border crossing
  • you can complete some customs processes away from the border

Find out what you need to do to prepare your business to move goods using Union and Common Transit.

 

Moving goods between GB and Northern Ireland

Sign up for the new Trader Support Service, if you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The free Trader Support Service (TSS) will handle the new processes arising under the Northern Ireland Protocol for you from 1 January 2021.

To register your interest for using this service, go to: Sign up for the Trader Support Service

Further information about movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be available soon. Please note TSS is not available for goods moved between Great Britain and the EU.

Guidance for haulage companies and commercial drivers

UK government have published guidance for hauliers and commercial drivers who move goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and the European Union (EU). It tells you what you will need to do from 1 January 2021.

It explains:

  • what documents you will need
  • how to follow new rules to manage traffic heading to ports
  • new border control processes

You can check out the full guidance for hauliers and commercial drivers Transporting goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021 on the GOV.UK website.

Business Wales support

A comprehensive range of support is available through Business Wales and our Business Wales Export Zone provides a wealth of information and advice about exporting.

Trade and invest

The Welsh Government will continue to support businesses through our expanded network of overseas operations and this support can be accessed through our Trade and Investment website. The website explains how we will help companies to capture new markets and showcase Wales as a destination for trade and investment.