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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. The European Council has decided to extend the deadline until 31 October 2019. If both parties ratify the withdrawal agreement before this date, Brexit will enter into force on the first day of the month following the ratification.

Multiple scenarios in the withdrawal negotiations between the EU and the UK

For the EU, the withdrawal agreement is the best attainable compromise and the only way of ensuring an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the Union. The EU is not willing to open the agreement up for negotiations. The next course of action depends on the internal politics and objectives of the UK. There are multiple scenarios. The UK must clarify how it wishes to proceed with the matter. After this, the EU will take its stance on any proposals made by the UK.

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, 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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