As things stand, the EU will treat the UK as a third (non-Member) country from day one. This means that UK exports to the EU will be subject to the same documentary, certification and other requirements as goods from the rest of the world, including in respect of issues such as permits for road haulage.

Companies which already export to non-EU countries will be familiar with these requirements and will simply have to scale up their internal procedures accordingly. But companies which have only ever traded with the EU will need to put new processes in place and factor in the extra time required prior to shipment, particularly in order to obtain an export health certificate. Many may find it easier to employ customs agents to help with this, though there will be significant demand for such services.

If the UK succeeds in negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, it is unlikely that any tariffs or duties will need to be paid. But, in the absence of such a deal, most goods are likely to face the full EU external tariff from day one. The exact rates depend on the tariff codes for each product – and can vary significantly even within similar groups. Special rules also apply for composite products and where products contain raw materials that have originated outside the UK.

A summary of the main requirements and an initial check list can be found at Prepare to Export from Great Britain. Different arrangements will apply in respect of goods exported to the EU from Northern Ireland, which will continue to be subject to Customs Union and Single Market rules, details of which are not yet available.

In order to trade with the EU at the end of the transition period you may need two types of Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number.


A UK EORI number will allow you to trade goods into or out of the UK. It will allow you or your agent to submit the necessary customs declarations and to apply for customs simplification procedures. Your UK EORI number will start with ‘GB’ and be followed by 12 digits which will include your VAT number. You may already have a UK EORI number if you trade with non-EU countries.

A UK EORI number is not required if you only move goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

If you are a VAT registered UK business, HMRC may have automatically allocated you a UK EORI number. If you are not a VAT registered business or have not received your UK EORI number click here to contact HMRC or to apply.

UK businesses should refer to government guidance on UK EORI numbers for the latest information.


A UK business will need an EU EORI number only if it is dealing directly with EU customs authorities. If your importer or customer in the EU deals with the EU customs authorities on your behalf, they will need to have an EU EORI number.

You need to establish the basis on which you are currently selling to your customer.

If you are selling on an ex-factory basis where the customer/importer takes ownership of the goods from factory gate then they are responsible for the cost of Freight, insurance and customs procedures including paying tariffs VAT and duties. Under these circumstances you will not require an EU EORI number. 

However in most cases, if you are selling the goods on a delivered basis where you are the owner of the total consignment up until they arrive at your customer(s)  gate(s) you are the exporter AND THE IMPORTER.  You will therefore be responsible for all Border Control Post (BCP) procedures including the paying of duty.  This will be almost certainly the case for groupage consignments.

As with imports, it is advisable for companies for to appoint a Customs or Clearing agent in the country at point of entry.  Potentially most of your customers will be as inexperienced at doing this as you may be. Most of them will probably expect you to be delivering your goods duty paid.

Traders who import goods regularly may benefit from having a duty deferment account (DDA). This enables customs charges including customs duty, excise duty, and import VAT to be paid once a month through Direct Debit instead of being paid on individual consignments.

Outbound livestock and animal products from the UK into EU 27 will have to pass through a designated Border Control Post (BCP) at the point of entry. You can’t just turn up at a BCP; every consignment has to be booked in advance. For cross-Channel shipments, there are BCPs at Dunquerque, le Havre and Caen, but current throughput at the Dunquerque BCP is already at two thirds total capacity.

Ports such as Rotterdam and Calais have made significant preparations for the transition period closing without a UK-EU trade deal. Importantly, Calais is launching a ‘smart border’ scheme that will prevent delays using a combination of pre-clearance of goods, number plate recognition and away-from-the-border checks.

UK government guidance on transporting goods out of the UK by road is available here.

Missing or inaccurate paperwork is one of the most common causes of delay at the border. It is important to liaise with your overseas counterpart so the exporter understands what paperwork is required. Ensuring that documentation is legible, complete, thorough and correct can help to mitigate the risk of hold ups during border checks. The timely arrival of documentation contributes to a timely clearance, for example arranging for your documentation to arrive prior to the goods.

Use of a reputable customs broker with a good relationship with the customs authorities in the importing country can also help to ensure your goods are cleared efficiently.

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status gives quicker access to some simplified customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to ‘fast-track’ your shipments through some customs and safety and security procedures. Application preparation and submission for AEO status typically takes 3 to 12 months, followed by 120 days for customs to assess your submission, and conduct site visits. If you are interested in achieving AEO status, you are advised to read the relevant guidance published by HMRC here.

If you import from the EU you can also make use of the Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP). These will allow deferments on the submission of customs declarations, the payment of customs duty and other requirements as announced by the UK government on 12 June 2020.

Queuing is difficult to predict with any accuracy. The most optimistic scenario is for only minor delays. At the other end of the scale, tailbacks lasting several hours are conceivable.  

It may vary considerably from day to day and is likely to differ for imports versus exports.   

Delays will depend, in part, on the practices of companies, hauliers and the travelling public. For example, how many will cancel, postpone or re-route journeys? What proportion will travel with the right documentation to clear customs?  

Step 1 has been to encourage companies to prepare for the new procedures. This is to minimise the number of vehicles failing border checks and causing congestion.  It is also important that UK companies encourage their suppliers in the EU to prepare, so that goods entering the UK will turn up at the port with the correct documentation.

Step 2 is a light touch and efficient process at the borders

Step 3 is to encourage some routing away from Dover/Calais and Eurotunnel (expected to be the main bottlenecks) if this proves necessary. Government has urged companies to consider converting from roll on roll off freight to alternatives such as container transport (which flows through different ports such as Thames Gateway), where possible.  

Step 4 would be to respond quickly and pragmatically to any problems that arise on the ground.

No, the infrastructure isn’t available for the authorities to sort, check and prioritise vehicles in this way.

The UK will remain in the Common Transit Convention (CTC) after the end of the transition period, designed for moving goods between the EU and EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) plus Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia.

Goods in transit between France and Ireland will not be subjected to tariffs or other inspections applied to ‘third country’ imports. There will be a ‘green lane’ at the border for vehicles carrying only goods in transit.

The system governing this is called the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) and various rules apply. Companies who intend to use NCTS for the first time after Brexit are advised to speak to HMRC or their freight companies to ensure they know how this will work.

Currently there has been little published about cross border shipping. For more information monitor the updates on the UK Government’s Transition Period website here and here.

Should the UK and EU not agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, UK-EU trade will be conducted on non-preferential WTO terms. This means that full ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) tariffs and non-preferential rules of origin would apply to consignments of UK seafood at the EU destination country.

The applicable tariffs are recorded in the EU’s Common Customs Tariff, where they are listed as ‘erga omnes’ (which translates as ‘towards all’). The EU may change these rates before the close of the transition period, but the current tariff rates can be used as an indication.

Prior to the end of the transition period, the UK Trade Tariff Tool can help you to find the correct commodity code for your exports. The tool however should be used with caution as identifying the wrong code risks paying the wrong tariff, costly delays at the border or even goods being blocked from entering the EU. 

If you are unsure which commodity code best fits your product, HMRC are best placed to offer the necessary advice. Contact details are provided in this government guidance.

Once the correct commodity code has been identified, the UK Trade Tariff Tool lists the VAT and tariff applicable to that commodity code. During the transition period, the UK Trade Tariff Tool will show the tariffs that currently apply for imports into the EU (including the UK).

More information on how to use the UK Trade Tariff Tool can be found here.

Following the close of the transition period the UK Trade Tariff Tool will show the tariffs applicable for imports into the UK and not imports into the EU as is currently shown.

Should the UK and EU not agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, UK-EU trade will be conducted on non-preferential WTO terms. This means that full, ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN), tariffs and non-preferential rules of origin would apply to consignments of UK seafood at the EU destination country.

Should the UK and EU agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement; tariffs will instead be set at the preferential rates agreed.

To access commodity code and tariff information for your exports to the EU after 1 January 2021, UK businesses are advised to use the EU’s TARIC tool.

If you are a member of a trade association, they may also be able to offer guidance.

To calculate the tariff for your product, whether in relation to exports to the EU or imports to the UK, you first need to know the product code. The EU (and the UK) use the Combined Nomenclature (CN) system, which classifies products on the basis of 8 digits, to give an 8 digit CN code.

The first two digits refer to a chapter
e.g. 10 for grains

the 3rd and 4th digits refer to a more detailed heading
e.g. 1006 for rice

the 5th and 6th digits comprise a subheading
e.g. 1006 20 for brown rice

while the 7th and 8th digits provide even more detail
e.g. 1006 2017 for long grain brown rice which has been parboiled

For some products additional digits may be used if extra specificity is required for tariff purposes
e.g. 1006 2017 13 for brown, parboiled, long grain basmati rice

Detailed information and guidance on EU tariff codes, duty and VAT rates can be found here: trade-tariff.service.gov.uk/sections

In addition to the correct CN code, knowing the composition of the product is crucial in obtaining the correct tariff. In some cases, identifying the correct CN code will be relatively straightforward, e.g. butter (04 05 10 00). However, in others, knowing the exact composition of the product is crucial to obtaining the correct tariff.

For example, calculation of EU tariffs for food products made with multiple ingredients, such as those found in chapter 19 (preparations of cereals, flour, starch or milk; pastrycooks’ products) is complicated.  Frequently, they consist of a fixed ‘agricultural’ component plus a variable ‘added-value’ element.  The fixed agricultural element will depend on the balance of ingredients such as grains, dairy, oils and sugar. This means that tariffs for similar products can vary depending on the precise recipe.

If this is unfamiliar territory, it would be sensible to contact a specialist adviser or the relevant trade organisation, using the links below.


Questions you will need to consider when classifying meat are whether the product is raw/cooked/seasoned? Bone-in/boneless? Which cut is it and what do the explanatory notes say on this?

The introduction to the chapters of the EU combined nomenclature provides some helpful guidance on classifying products as do the explanatory notes.

Chapter 02 Meat and edible offal

Some of the key chapter headings are as follows:

0201 Chilled beef
0202 Frozen beef
0203 Pork
0204 Sheepmeat
0206 Offal (red meat)
0207 poultry meat and offal
0210 codes (salted)

  1. For the purposes of subheadings 0210 11 to 0210 93, the term ‘meat and edible meat offal, salted or in brine’ means meat and edible meat offal deeply and homogeneously impregnated with salt in all parts and having a total salt content by weight of 1,2 % or more, provided that it is the salting which ensures the long-term preservation. For the purposes of subheading 0210 99, the term ‘meat and edible meat offal, salted or in brine’ means meat and edible meat offal deeply and homogeneously impregnated with salt in all parts and having a total salt content by weight of 1,2 % or more. (Chapter notes for chapter 2)

Chapter 16 includes Meat Preparations

  1. (a) Uncooked seasoned meats fall in Chapter 16. ‘Seasoned meat’ is uncooked meat that has been seasoned, either in depth or over the whole surface of the product, with seasoning either visible to the naked eye or clearly distinguishable by taste. (b) Products falling in heading 0210 to which seasoning has been added during the process of preparation remain classified therein, provided that the addition of seasoning has not changed their character. (Chapter notes for chapter 2)

Other products

Other chapters may be relevant for meat that is not fit for human consumption or by products.

You could consider sending a sample or details of the product to the customs authority in the market of entry (HMRC for the UK) to get an official classification.

  1. Check that you have an EORI number. If not; please contact HMRC
  2. Check your commodity/tariff codes
  3. Know what health certificates your products need
  4. Check your product labelling
  5. Decide if you will use a customs agent

For further information please refer to the FDF guide:

The French customs authority’s advice to companies preparing for Brexit is available here: douane.gouv.fr/articles/a15053-faq-brexit-english-

This confirms that the French government will introduce the full set of inspections currently required for non-EU imports entering the EU.

However, it has developed a ‘smart border system’ to support the flow of trade.

Drivers will need to carry a barcode linking the number plate of the vehicle with the customs declaration. Based on this information, vehicles will be directed into lanes, depending on the type of inspection required.

In a no-deal scenario, the UK will become a third country and will need to meet EU third country import requirements to export regulated plants and plant products to the EU. UK Government has made guidance available to businesses exporting plants here: gov.uk/guidance/importing-and-exporting-plants-and-plant-products-if-theres-no-withdrawal-deal

There will be significant changes. In a no-deal scenario, the UK will become a third country and will need to meet EU third-country imports requirements on all animals or products of animal origin exported to the EU. 

UK meat plants will no longer be able to use an EU registration mark and will need to obtain a GB or UK licence. This will need to be put on all carcases and labels. Products of animal origin will need an Export Health Certificate and must enter the EU via a Border Inspection Post (BIP). Most fish products will need a catch certificate.

Further detailed guidance on the UK Government website can be found here: gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-on-importing-and-exporting-live-animals-or-animal-products

Yes, this was in doubt for a while because the port of Calais didn’t originally have a Border Inspection Post required for inspecting these products. However, that is now constructed and is ready to operate, when necessary.

These are not subject to any special inspections, certification or controls. You will however need to adopt the procedures required for all food exports: fdf.org.uk/publicgeneral/five-essential-step-exporting-to-the-EU.pdf

The following will be either useful or essential:

This will need to include a breakdown between ex-works goods price, freight and insurance. It will also need to include the HS code(s) for the goods concerned.

The UK regulator, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), says that phytosanitary certificates are not required for the export of grain or grain products to the EU, and that it will not issue them.  Should your EU customer insist on a phytosanitary certificate for these products, please contact the APHA.

Export Health certificates (EHC) and other documentation currently used for imports into the EU will be accepted for 6 months after the UK leaves the EU with no-deal. New UK certificates will be available at some stage and users should stay alert for new developments.

The most up to date health certificates are available online. As the forms are subject to constant revision, users should ONLY use the online version of the EHC. If an application is submitted on an older version the export will not be valid. Please click here and input the destination country you wish to export to and the commodity type.

Those exporting Pigmeat may wish to use UKECP’s detailed site here.

No.  The UK will not have third-country equivalence from exit day. The UK will need to reapply to the EU for ‘third-country equivalence’ on plant reproductive material certification and DUS testing if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

However, the UK has transposed the list from the EU and will allow all EU varieties to be imported.

The UK government can only apply to the EU for the British catalogue to be recognised once it has left the EU.

More guidance can be found at gov.uk/guidance/plant-variety-rights-and-marketing-plant-reproductive-material-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-without-a-deal

Groupage rules between Defra and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have been agreed and this will make the process for getting your Export Health Certificates (EHCs) approved easier, should the UK leave the EU without a deal. To take advantage of this, exporters will need to become a member of the Trusted Supplier Scheme, which will allow you to use support attestations to facilitate the provision of information from upstream suppliers to the Certifying Officers.

In order to apply for TSS, please see annex 111 in the guidance on the following link. Full groupage guidance for suppliers, exporters and certifying officers can be found  here.

Note: This scheme is limited to exports of specific categories of products which have been processed in approved food establishments to the EU.