Brexit – EU importing and exporting

Brexit - Importing and exporting

At the time of writing there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit negotiations. Will a deal be struck, or won’t it? And what will it mean either way?

If a deal of sorts is achieved, whatever it is, there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, during which time, it will be ‘business as usual’. So in terms of immediacy, what we do in such cases can wait for another day. But if there is no deal, and we do leave the EU as currently scheduled, we must consider what is needed in order to continue exporting and importing between the rest of the EU and the UK. So, on the basis that we do leave without a deal, what can we glean from the various advice and information provided by HMRC, and what abilities does Seacon UK and its EU partners have in its armoury to minimise any disruption? Big questions, so let us begin… To start with, the HMRC website has a collective page which provides links to all the relevant guidance that informs all traders what to do in this event.

For all UK Government information on the new trading rules, please click here

But what you want is for us to cut through this and simplify your reading, after all, that’s what we are here for!

Firstly, Customs…

  • Export or Import, you will need an EORI number. If you don’t already have one, full information on how to apply, and why, can be found on the HMRC website at
  • Export or Import, more precise information will need to be provided, just like now for non-EU movements, in order to be able to make accurate customs declarations. The below list is the minimum required, although additional information, such as licences for example, may be required for certain types of goods which may be under more strict control in either the UK or one of the remaining EU countries.
    • Exporter and Importer details
    • Description of goods
    • Packaging details
    • Weights, gross and net
    • Sales Value and Currency
    • Incoterm
    • Country of Origin
    • EORI number **
    • HS Classification Code (Commodity Code)
    • Customs Procedure Code
    • You should also provide a Commercial Invoice and a Packing List (which must also travel with the goods)

** If you, our client (principal), is a freight forwarder, then this must be the EORI number of the exporter (if an export) or the importer (if an import) as relevant.

    • Should you use a Customs Broker or an agent, you must provide a formal written authorisation, empowering them to act as a ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ representative. This would also apply if you appointed Seacon UK to handle your customs declarations. ‘Direct’ or ‘Indirect’ is explained here.
    • Presently, any customs formalities carried out or arranged by Seacon UK, on instruction by our client, are done so on the strict understanding that the client indemnifies Seacon UK, and/or its nominated subcontractors, against any charges howsoever imposed by HMRC and/or its agents, in accordance with Article 7 of BIFA 2017 regulations. Article 7 of BIFA 2017 clarifies that in such cases Seacon UK is deemed to be appointed, and acts as, Direct Representatives only


For Imports (by road), if your goods are arriving through a roll on roll off (’ro-ro’) listed location (see list) you will not be able to complete customs formalities when your goods arrive in the UK. Therefore, any declaration needs to be made before arrival at the ferry port or the Eurotunnel on the EU side. You (or your Customs Broker/agent) can either make a full declaration before the vehicle arrives at the ro-ro location, or you can register to use the ‘Transitional Simplified Procedure’ which will not require as much information upfront compared to a full declaration.

Only an importer can register for this service, and the importer would have to provide a financial guarantee to HMRC. Information about this service and how to apply can be found here. If you decide to register for this interim service, the procedure is as follows:

  • If the goods are ‘controlled’ (i.e. under import license), you must send a simplified frontier declaration before the goods are imported, ensuring that the goods are accompanied by full supporting documentation. On completion of a simplified frontier declaration you will receive a unique ‘Master reference Number’ (MRN). When the goods arrive in the UK, you or your Customs Broker must update the declaration by the end of the working day after the goods’ arrival in the UK. It is not clear if your Customs Broker can do the simplified frontier declaration on your behalf, despite it allowing them to update it!
  • If the goods are not ‘controlled’, the initial frontier declaration may be dispensed with at your discretion, although if you do dispense with it, you must make a declaration within your own commercial records containing the following information:
    • Date and time the goods arrived in the UK
    • Description of goods, quantity and Commodity Code
    • Purchase and (if available) Sales invoice numbers
    • Customs value
    • Serial numbers (if appropriate)
    • Delivery details
    • Supplier details
  • A supplementary declaration in either case is then required by the fourth working day following the month of arrival of the goods in the UK. HMRC will debit any duties or taxes applicable by direct debit on the 15th day of the month after the goods arrive in the UK.

Whichever of the above you do, you must provide us with either:

  • The Master Reference Number (in the case where you have completed a simplified frontier declaration), or
  • Your EORI number if the MRN is not required

Sadly, whilst much of this procedure is detailed in this link, where the text becomes grey is in the sub-link under the section ‘Haulage companies – imports’ to ‘Entry Summary Declarations’’ This sub-link sends you to a page which has not been updated since 2015 and does not seem relevant. So there is still some confusion as to whether or not this sub-link may apply.

However, it has been reported here that HMRC is to suspend the introduction of the ‘Entry Summary Declarations’ for six months, allowing it to be phased in should the UK leave the EU without a deal.

  • For Exports …well, that’s a good question. The short answer on whether T forms are required can’t be answered at the moment as nobody knows. It is hoped that some replacement system will be introduced that does not require a guaranteed transit document as it is unlikely that any Transit Guarantee holder would have a Transit Guarantee big enough to cover the anticipated export movements.

Insofar as what information we have to hand concerning HMRC procedures, the above is literally the only information we can provide with any great clarity. The weeks ahead will probably provide further clarification should we leave without a deal. Nevertheless, it is advisable that you do three things now without delay.

  1. Apply for an EORI number, and advise this to us
  2. Register for Transitional Simplified Procedure
  3. Prepare with the list of what you will need to provide us with