UK and EU trade agreement overview

4th January 2021

On 1 January 2021 the UK started to trade with the EU according to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was finally agreed on 24 December 2020.

The agreement is detailed and far reaching (1,259 pages), but as ever its most obvious and immediate impact will be on transactions in goods between the UK and the EU.

The Northern Ireland Protocol remains unchanged, so from 1 January 2021 there will be different provisions in force in relation to goods moving from England, Scotland and Wales (GB) to Northern Ireland and vice versa, as NI will continue to be within the EU customs union and single market.

Documentation

The most immediate change will be the requirement for customs documentation for all goods which will cross the border between GB and the EU (including NI), including parcels sent by post.

For goods arriving in GB, this requirement can be deferred for 6 months, but the requirement applies from 1 January for goods arriving in the EU and NI.

There will also be sanitary and phyto sanitary (SPS) checks on goods moving across the border. These will be introduced from 1 January 2021 by the EU and from 1 April by GB.

Food products

In addition certain food products are not permitted to be imported into the EU, regardless of origin or inspections (eg seed potatoes, minced meat etc.).

Customs duty

The trade agreement means that in many cases there will be no customs duty on goods crossing the border, but this status is dependent on the origin of the goods concerned.

Origin can be self-declared by the exporter or the importer, but this should only be done in the full understanding of the complex rules which apply, particularly in certain sectors. If goods have been sourced from a local supplier, their origin will still need to be established.

If the goods do not qualify for treatment as either UK or EU origin then their duty treatment will revert to that of the third country from which they do originate, which may mean that customs duty is due on their arrival in GB or the EU (including NI).

For more information, check out our International Advisory Knowledge Hub or contact a member of our team.

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