Importing goods from the EU from 1-Jan-2021.

Now that the UK seems destined to withdraw from the EU with no trade agreement, importing goods from the EU from 1 January 2021 will necessitate a few changes on the part of UK companies. This fact sheets sets out the minimum changes you will need to consider.

What this means for you

  • Free movement goods across the channel will cease from 1 January 2021.
  • From this date you will need to make customs declarations when you import goods from the EU. These rules currently apply to importing goods from the rest of the world, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
  • You can make the declarations yourself or hire someone else such as a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent.

Unless you have time and the enthusiasm to acquire the necessary skills, we suggest that linking up with a freight forwarder or customs agent is probably the most effective way to reduce the potential delays to your supply lines. The government have published a comprehensive list of customs agents that you can access on the GOV.UK website.

What you need to do now

The minimum actions you should take now are:

  1. Be ready to complete customs declarations

You will need to complete an import declaration to get your goods through customs. Normally, this is facilitated by specialist software – the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system (CHIEF). Alternatively, as suggested above, you may want to use a customs agent to do this for you.

  1. Do you have an EORI number?

You will need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods from 1 January 2021. This can be applied for on the GOV.UK website.

  1. Check the rate of duties and VAT you will need to pay.

You will need to pay import duties and VAT on goods imported from the EU. The amount will depend on the types of goods imported. Full details are posted on the website. You will need to factor these additional charges into your onward pricing models otherwise you will suffer an equivalent drop in profits.


There is a simplified process that you may be able to use for certain goods. If you employ a customs agent, they will be able to take advantage of this process for you.

In Conclusion

The pandemic and the chaos created by the various shades of lock-down have distracted us from the impending no-deal exit from the EU. If your business depends on supply lines from the EU and you have not yet considered how you are going to cope with the new regulatory processes from 1 January 2020, your simplest option may be to use the services of a customs agent.

You should also take account of the likely effects on your financial forecasts for 2021. We can assist you with this. Please call if you need help considering your options.

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