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The UK withdrew from the EU at the end of January 2020. From the beginning of February there is a transition period that lasts until the end of the year 2020.

During the transition period, the current rules continue to be in place as if the UK were still a member of the EU. The EU and the UK will negotiate their future relationship during 2020. Due to the tight negotiation schedule, some sectors may fall outside the scope of the agreement in the beginning of 2021. Businesses in particular should be prepared for this possibility.

Regardless of what kind of agreement the EU and the UK will negotiate, all goods imported or exported between the parties after the transition period must be cleared through Customs. All goods must be cleared, also when no customs duty is  imposed. This will cause considerable extra costs and more bureaucracy for companies trading with the UK.

After the transition period provided in the Brexit withdrawal agreement

The withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK entered into force on 1 February 2020. The withdrawal agreement dismantles all cooperation based on the UK’s EU membership in an orderly manner and provides for a transition period until the end of 2020, during which the relationship between the EU and the UK will continue under the current EU rules. The UK will become a third country, but the free movement of goods between the UK and the EU will continue during the transition period until 31 December 2020. The rules, restrictions and other formalities applied to the trade between the EU and third countries will not yet during the transition period be applied to the trade between the EU and the UK. After the end of the transition period provided in the withdrawal agreement, all businesses, including small and medium size businesses, should prepare for Brexit. Businesses should, without delay, assess the consequences of Brexit for their operations.

Brexit is a particularly high challenge for businesses which until now have only operated within the Single Market. 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. Businesses have to acquaint themselves with these matters and obtain information on the requirements concerning trade with non-EU countries, and on the criteria that third country products must meet before they can be imported to the internal EU market.

Brexit and its effects on customs clearance

The withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK contains provisions on the transition period arrangements concerning, for example, the free movement of goods between the EU and the UK. In the withdrawal agreement protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is established that Northern Ireland is a part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom and that there will be no customs formalities at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK has been granted an extension to Brexit.

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:

Future relationship between the EU and the UK

The EU and the UK will negotiate their future relationship during 2020. The EU and the UK are meant to agree on for example cooperation arrangements. The aim is for the future relationship to enter into force once the transition period is over in the beginning of 2021. Further information on the future relationship will be provided later as the negotiations proceed.

More information about the withdrawal agreement, the transition period and the future relationship can be found on the website of the Prime Minister’s Office.

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


Keywords Brexit

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