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 notified its intention to withdraw from the EU. The two-year period of negotiations that started then will end on 29 March 2019, and the withdrawal agreement is to enter into force the following day, on 30 March 2019. 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 transition period would run until 31 December 2020. In its vote on 15 January 2019, the UK Parliament rejected the proposed withdrawal agreement, which means that it is uncertain whether an agreement can be reached at all.

At the moment, there are four scenarios in the withdrawal negotiations between the EU and the UK

  1. a withdrawal agreement becomes effective by 29 March 2019;
  2. a withdrawal agreement is not reached;
  3. the two-year period for negotiation which expires on 29 March 2019 is extended based on a unanimous decision by the EU27 in mutual understanding with the UK, or;
  4. the UK cancels its withdrawal and notification of withdrawal, for example as a result of a referendum.

Currently, all parties must be prepared especially for the first two alternatives:

  1. The withdrawal agreement is accepted, which means that the UK will withdraw from the EU on 29 March 2019 according to the agreement, and the transition period will run until 31 December 2020. During the transition period, the UK will be considered an EU country for the purposes of customs clearance, and the free movement of goods between the EU and the UK will continue until the end of the transition period.
  2. If no joint agreement on the transition period and its contents is reached, the UK will withdraw from the Union without a transition period. Upon withdrawal, the UK will be a non-EU country, i.e. a third country from 30 March 2019 onwards, and the free movement of goods between the UK and the EU will end.

Regardless of whether a withdrawal agreement will be reached or not, the relations between the UK and the EU will change fundamentally when the UK becomes a third country. A third country cannot have the same rights and benefits as a Member State.

UK withdrawal from the EU without an agreement and a transition period on 30 March 2019 (alternative 2), 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.
  • As of the statistical month of 4/2019, Intrastat declarations will not be submitted as regards UK trade.

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.

Travellers should be prepared that when travelling to the UK, the same restrictions, provisions and value limits on duty free imports will apply as when arriving from a non-EU country. Read more in our instructions for travellers.


The negotiations between the EU and the UK of a withdrawal agreement are ongoing. When ordering goods online, one should be prepared that orders made from the UK will be cleared through customs and taxed, like online purchases from non-EU countries, such as China or the USA. Calculate estimates of the customs duties and VAT and read instructions on what to do when ordering goods online.


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