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Brexit situation still unclear

A withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK is still uncertain. If no withdrawal agreement is reached, all businesses, including small and medium-sized businesses, need to be prepared for Brexit. Businesses should, without delay, assess the consequences of Brexit for their operations. If no agreement is reached, the customs authorities of the EU Member States have to apply all rules and formalities concerning the trade between the EU and third countries on goods imported from or exported to the UK.

Brexit is a particularly significant challenge for businesses that only trade within the Single Market without borders. Businesses that are going to trade with the UK in the future will need to engage in customs clearance procedures which are mandatory in trade with third countries. The businesses have to acquaint themselves with these matters and obtain information about what trading with non-EU countries requires and what requirements third country products must meet before they can be imported to the intra-EU market.

Matters to be observed include:

There will be more customs formalities, which means that businesses must present more documents and submit more information to Customs.

Information and instructions on our website:

Brexit and its effects on customs clearance

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom (UK) gave its notification of withdrawal from the EU. The EU is ready to sign the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the UK government. However, the House of Commons has still not accepted the withdrawal agreement in the votes that have been held. The withdrawal agreement would contain the provisions on the transition period arrangements concerning, for example, the free movement of goods between the EU and the UK.

The UK has been granted an extension to Brexit.

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The European Council agreed to delay the United Kingdom’s withdrawal date until 31 January 2020. This flexible extension allows the UK to leave the EU even earlier, should the withdrawal agreement take effect prior to that date. In that scenario, Brexit could become effective either on 1 December 2019 or 1 January 2020.

At the request of the UK, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration adopted by the EU Member States in November 2018 were partly renegotiated in autumn 2019. The European Council (Art. 50) endorsed the revised agreement and approved the revised declaration on 17 October 2019. The agreement must still be approved by the UK Parliament and the European Parliament.

The EU believes that this is a fair outcome that secures the interests and unity of the EU, while safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

The EU and its Member States have also made preparations for a no-deal scenario in which the UK withdraws from the EU without an agreement.

UK withdrawal from the EU without an agreement and a transition period, most significant consequences:

  • The UK will be a non-EU country, and all goods moving between the UK and the EU will have to be cleared through Customs. This means that declarants, i.e. importers and exporters, will be responsible for the customs clearance of the goods. The declarant can clear the goods through customs or use a forwarding agency. Smooth customs clearance and electronic declarations often require authorisations granted by customs authorities.
  • The EU will start to apply its regulation and tariffs at borders with the UK as a third country, including checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Inspections carried out at the border would cause considerable delays e.g. in road traffic and problems in ports.
  • Intrastat declarations will no longer be submitted for the trade with GB starting from the statistical month following the month of withdrawal.

Points to consider

  • The United Kingdom (UK, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is, for the time being, one of the Member States of the European Union (EU). UK is not an official country code for customs declarations.
  • England, Scotland and Wales constitute Great Britain (GB). GB is part of the UK. GB is not the official country code for customs declarations.
  • Northern Ireland is part of the UK but not of Great Britain. Northern Ireland does not have a separate country code, so GB is the official country code for customs declaration.

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General instructions for businesses

General instructions for businesses offers advice from Monday to Friday 8 am–4 pm. Have a look at the FAQ or contact us with your question.

Customs Information Service


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