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.
Withdrawal agreement and transition period
The withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK entered into force on 1 February 2020. The withdrawal agreement will dismantle all cooperation based on the UK’s EU membership in an orderly manner. The withdrawal agreement does not lay down provisions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
The withdrawal agreement provides for a transition period until the end of 2020, during which the relationship between the EU and the UK will continue under the EU’s current rules, as if the UK were still a member of the EU. The only significant exception is that, during the transition period, the UK will no longer participate in EU decision-making or in the activities of EU bodies.
The withdrawal agreement will also, among other things, safeguard the residence, employment and social security rights of EU citizens residing in the UK and UK citizens residing in the EU under EU law for life if they have settled in the UK or the EU before 2021. Their status and rights will be safeguarded as they were under the key EU legislation at the end of 2020. Citizens moving after 2020 will no longer enjoy free movement and restrictions will be placed on their rights.
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:
- Customs declarations and related authorisations granted by customs authorities
- Customs tariffs and possible customs duties: Commodity code
- Sanitary and phytosanitary controls
- Controls for ensuring product conformity: Import control of product safety and conformity
- Import and export prohibitions and restrictions: Manual on restrictions (in Finnish)
- Preferential treatment (how to apply the rules of origin, when EU products containing goods of UK origin are taken out of the EU): Preferential treatment
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:
- The EORI number needed for customs declarations – what is it, how to obtain it?
- New importer/exporter – basic information for businesses beginning to trade with third countries
- Customs webinars (in Finnish)
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.
Information on the European Commission’s website:
- Brexit negotiations
- Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU
- Market Access Database: Information on trade with third countries
- Brexit negotiating documents
- Brexit: Situation, negotiations and preparedness
- Commission notices on rules to be applied when the United Kingdom becomes a third country
Information on the European Council’s website
Information on websites of other authorities:
- Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
- Finnish Tax Administration
- Prime Minister's Office
- GOV.UK: How to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal
- Brexit in the Dutch ports