Importing and Exporting

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UK Government's Export Support Service

Did you know the UK government provides all businesses based in the UK free access to an Export Support Service? You can use it to ask a range of questions about selling consumer or retail products to customers in Europe.

The helpline and online form acts as your first point of contact, whether that be for information on:

  • The EU Import One-Stop Shop system for VAT
  • shipments to the EU
  • customs clearance documentation
  • rules of origin
  • transportation advice
  • and much more.

No matter the size of your business, how much you export or where in the UK you are based, the service is here to help.

Click here to get in touch with the Export Support Service online or by calling the helpline for answers to your specific exporting questions.

Haulier Handbook and Advice Sites

The Haulier Handbook is the key bit of guidance for haulage companies and commercial drivers moving goods between Great Britain and the European Union.

Also revealed last week were the Advice Sites being set up at motorway service stations and truck stops. Check out the available locations. Support includes multi-lingual in-person advice on new border changes, the Hauliers Handbook and training on the 'Check an HGV' service which should go live in December.

If there are delays, it's been confirmed that the disused airport at Manston, near Ramsgate in Kent, will become a holding site for lorries.

Remember, it's the trader's responsibility to make customs declarations and provide the haulage company and driver with the correct documents. This can be done directly or via a third party, for example a freight forwarder, logistics company or customs agent. See last month's Bulletin for information about the difference between these third parties, and for a list of those available.

Online Q&A forums

The Cabinet Office has launched a series of online forums for trading businesses. Specific topics include border disruption, manufactured goods regulations and checking HGVs. You can post specific questions in the forum and someone from Government should get back to you, or you can browse previously posted questions and answers.

Joint letter with the FDF on Supply of Goods to Northern Ireland

BPIF CEO, Charles Jarrold and BPIF Cartons General Manager, Jon Clark have co-signed a letter to the Secretary State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the movement of food and drink from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The letter calls for the 'trusted trader scheme' not to be restricted to the large supermarkets, putting SMEs at a disadvantage. 

You can read the full letter on our website.

Important Info for Hauliers

On the 22 October, Government announced a series of measures designed to help keep trade flowing by minimising the risk of disruption from January 1. This has been accompanied by a new radio, press and online information campaign to inform hauliers.

Legislation to enable the enforcement of Operation Brock - the traffic management strategy in Kent - has been brought forward to ensure the plans can be implemented if needed. The move will help to reduce the risk of disruption as hauliers travel through Kent to reach the Short Straits - one of Britain's busiest trade routes.

The new rules confirm that it will be mandatory for all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) using the Short Straits channel crossings to obtain a digital Kent Access Permit (aka a 'KAP' or a 'Kermit' - see last month's Bulletin for more), following completion of the Government's new easy-to-use 'Check an HGV' service. The aim is to ensure that HGV drivers who come prepared can move smoothly through Kent to the UK's trading ports. There will be fines of up to £300 for those travelling via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel who haven't used the service, or who've provided a fraudulent declaration.

Alongside this, a haulier handbook will be made available in 14 different languages, intended as a one-stop-shop for UK and EU hauliers, providing them with key information and advice. In November, hauliers will also be able to visit one of 45 'Information and Advice Sites' at key strategic locations across the UK, offering in-person assistance on how to apply for the documents needed to keep them travelling to, from and through the EU.

The new UK-Japan Agreement

A little later than intended, on 7 September, the UK-Japan trade deal was announced. It's the first post-Brexit major trade deal to be done, with the aim of boosting trade between the countries following the end of the Transition Period.

This 'agreement in principle' says that 99% of exports from the UK to Japan will be free of tariffs, so it's fairly similar to the deal the EU agreed with Japan in 2018.

Even though trade with Japan accounts for just 2% of the UK's total trade, that trade value (both ways) is almost £30bn - and while it's a drop in the ocean compared to UK-EU trade, the Government is hoping the deal with Japan will serve to boost confidence for UK business. 

Lorrying to Kent? You'll need a KAP...

The Government has said this month that truck drivers will need a permit to enter Kent from neighbouring counties after the Brexit transition period ends.

A letter from Michael Gove to logistics campaign groups warned that queues of 7,000-trucks-long could clog up roads around the port of Dover and Channel Tunnel in a 'reasonable worse case scenario.'

To avoid such gridlock, he announced a 'Kent Access Permit' (KAP) system would be installed, and would be enforced by police and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.

Drivers of lorries weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will need to apply for the permits online and show that they have all the paperwork they need to ferry goods to Europe.

Drivers who are found travelling to Dover or Folkestone without a Kent Access Permit face being given a £300 fine by the police or the Vehicle Standards Agency.

It's likely that, in order to minimise bureaucracy, KAPs will be issued to all drivers who simply claim their paperwork is in order. For this reason, the Road Haulage Association has criticised the new arrangement as being "an honesty box system...not an effective system to actually guarantee or ensure that someone is ready to cross the border."

Trader Support Service

As mentioned above, the new Trader Support Service will be made available to all traders who move goods between GB and NI, or bring goods into NI from outside the UK.

The TSS will be free to use and will guide you through any changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and into Northern Ireland from outside the UK.

You can also use it to get customs declarations completed on your behalf.

You can register your interest now and the Service is expected to go live in September.

Northern Ireland Protocol update

The Government has, this month, issued further guidance for businesses moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol. Due to take effect at the end of the Transition Period, the Protocol is the practical solution designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Exporting NI to GB

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain should take place as it does now – there will be no additional process, paperwork, or restrictions on Northern Ireland goods moving to Great Britain, delivering unfettered access.

Exporting GB to NI

Changes for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be kept to an absolute minimum but will entail some new admin processes, notably new electronic import declaration requirements, and safety and security information, for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. These are needed to make sure that tariffs are not paid on trade within the UK and that goods going to Ireland pay tariffs when they should.

A new Trader Support Service (more information below), available to all traders at no cost, will be available - alongside guidance on the processes for food and agricultural products.

Border Operating Model

More detail on the three-phase border controls was published on the 13 July. For our simple table, check here.

Businesses will need to take action, regardless of the outcome of the EU/UK negotiations. Preparations are along the same lines as preparations made in earlier years:

1.    Apply for a GB EORI number

Chances are you have one by now, if you move goods into or out of the country. All  VAT-registered businesses which trade with the EU should have received an automatic enrolment from HMRC last year, with your EORI number coming in the post, so check whether you have one before applying.   

If not, you can apply here for one here. The application process should take under ten minutes and the EORI number will be supplied in around a week.

You must have one if you're VAT-registered and want to continue to trade with the EU!

2.    Get a Customs Intermediary

Intermediaries can help traders find the information needed to complete formalities and submit the required declarations. This simplifies the declaration processes for traders. Further information can be found here.

For business that want to do their own declarations, and for intermediary businesses themselves, we've covered the available funding for training in previous Bulletins and on our website.

If you decide not to use an intermediary, you will need to make declarations yourself. To do this you will need to get access to HMRC systems and to purchase software.

3.    Apply for a Duty Deferment Account

Traders who import goods regularly may benefit from having a duty deferment account (DDA). This enables customs charges including customs duty, excise duty, and import VAT to be paid once a month through Direct Debit instead of being paid on individual consignments. VAT registered traders can instead account for import VAT on their VAT return using postponed VAT accounting, as detailed below.

To set up a DDA, traders, or their representatives, apply for a deferment account number (DAN) and will need to be authorised by HMRC. New rules are being introduced which will allow most traders to use duty deferment without a Customs Comprehensive Guarantee (CCG).

4.    Prepare to Pay or Account for VAT on Imported Goods

VAT-registered traders will be able to account for import VAT on their VAT return by using postponed VAT accounting from 1 January 2021. Unless they are eligible to defer their supplementary declarations, they will not be compelled to use postponed VAT accounting.

5.    Ensure drivers have correct International Driving Permits

Hauliers need to ensure their drivers have the correct documentation, for example an international driving permit (IDP) or an additional licence may be required to drive in some countries.

6.    Know all about import tariffs

Businesses importing goods into GB should ensure they are familiar with using the Trade with the UK tool which provides detailed information on tariffs, taxes and rules. The tariffs shown are those currently being applied until 1 January 2021. Use the UK UK Global Tariff tool to check the tariffs that will apply to goods imported from 1 January 2021. Most print-related tariffs are, and will remain, 0%.

7.    And duties and customs procedures for exporting

If you export goods from Great Britain you should ensure you are familiar with using the 'Check How to Export Goods' tool which provides detailed information on duties and customs procedures for over 160 countries. 

New border arrangements

As we've always said, the application of tariffs is merely one barrier to trade. Whether a Free Trade Agreement is reached or not, there will be increased barriers and costs to trade.

The Government's original plan was to introduce full border checks on January 1. However, after intensive lobbying by business organisations already concerns about the impact of COVID-19, Michael Gove this month announced a new plan.

Border control will now be introduced in three stages, which will begin on 1 January 2021 (under both a deal or no-deal scenario).

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.
  • Traders 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.



Officials concede that goods flowing to the EU from the UK are likely to face full checks as they enter France.

Do you have your EORI number?

We've said it before but it's worth saying again! You need to register for an EORI number if you trade with the EU and wish to continue doing so. If you currently trade with non-EU countries, you should already have one and you don't need to re-register. If you're not sure if you have one, or can't find it, call HMRC on 0300 322 7067.

If you need one, it's important to register now, before we leave the EU. You can apply online and it'll take about 10 minutes, with your EORI number being sent to you by email three days later.

HMRC are currently saying they anticipate a high number of registrations over the next few weeks, so apply as soon as possible. 

Commodity codes checker

Here's a link to an easy-to-use tariffs/commodity code database, If you're still not sure of a commodity code for an item, you can contact HMRC and they will check it for you. Some of our members have already done this and received responses within a day or two. Email [email protected] with the following information:

  • company name
  • contact name
  • contact details
  • the option which best describes your item:
  • agricultural, chemical, textiles or ceramics (including food, drink, plastics, cosmetics, sports equipment, games, toys, clothing, shoes)
  • electrical, mechanical or miscellaneous (including vehicles, optical and measuring devices, machinery, musical instruments, metal, furniture, lighting, paper, printed matter, straw, glass, wood, jewellery)
  • what the goods are made of (if more than one material, provide a breakdown of materials)
  • what the goods are used for
  • how the goods work or function
  • how the goods are presented or packaged
  • the code you consider to be appropriate for your goods

It can help to include photographs if the item is unusual or difficult to describe.  

Rules of origin - what you need to do 

There's new information relevant to Rules of Origin that you may need to be aware of.

As we know, the signing of the UK-EU trade deal means that most traders moving goods between the UK and EU will avoid paying tariffs. However, in order to avoid paying tariffs all traders must make sure they meet the relevant Rules of Origin (RoO) for their products and make a declaration to say so.

What you need to do

There are a few steps to complete, but it shouldn't be too onerous:

  • Check the rules that are applicable to your products to ensure that the products are originating in either the UK or EU and can therefore be traded on preferential terms. Go to theguidance on the websiteto check.
  • Agree with your EU suppliers/customers whether a claim will be based on an exporter's declaration or on the importer's knowledge, informing customs agents as appropriate (if customs agents are being used).
  • If you need to make an exporter's declaration, you must make it on the commercial and customs documentation (e.g. the invoice) for all consignments being traded.

Go to our website to copy and paste a template exporter's declaration and read our Q&A.


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