Imports & Exports

Under no deal, the UK can set its own rules and procedures for imports, provided they apply equally to everyone. However, the EU will expect us to comply with their existing requirements for non-EU countries.

Yes, in the event of no deal, processes at the border will change and new duties will be applied. It is important to understand who would be legally liable for these charges. To establish this, refer to the Incoterms within your contracts.

If you are not satisfied, you would then need to consider renegotiating your contracts:

In a trade agreement between two parties, say between the UK and the USA, there will be rules which define what goods are considered to be of UK origin, and what are considered to be of US origin.  In days where businesses used locally produced raw materials this was fairly straightforward, but has become more complex as both raw materials and processed parts and ingredients are traded around the world.  In its trade agreements, The European Union usually has some of the most demanding Rules of Origin for agrifood goods.

Further information is available at

Once the UK leaves the EU, unless it remains part of a Customs Union which includes agrifood products, exports from the UK will be subject to tariffs if there is no future trade agreement (i.e. trading on ‘WTO terms’).  If there is a trade agreement, reduced tariffs will apply only to goods which satisfy the agreed Rules of Origin.  Taking the EU-Canada agreement as a model, that could for example mean that goods made with flour milled in the UK would have to pay a full tariff  if any USA wheat had been used in making the flour.  Similar restrictions would apply in relation to goods containing sugar, dairy products, cereals, meat etc.  

A fuller explanation of this, and suggestions of how the problem might be addressed in UK-EU negotiations, are set out in a report commissioned by UK food sector organisations, which can be found here:


  1. Check that you have an EORI number. If not; please contact HMRC
  2. Check your commodity/tariff codes
  3. If eligible, register for Transitional Simplified Procedures
  4. Check processes for imports of high risk goods
  5. Decide if you will use a customs agent

For further information please refer to the FDF guide:

UK Government has issued guidance to businesses importing plants and plant products from the EU and third countries:

After the UK leaves the EU, plants and plant products (for example, vegetables, seeds and fruit) that are currently managed under the EU plant passport scheme will be subject to UK import controls. There is a new process that businesses must follow for which details can be found here:

Further information on plant passports can be found here:

UK Government has issued guidance to businesses on importing animals and products of animal origin from the EU and third countries:

Check the port you use has the correct authorisation and identify the EU Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) you may need to use when exporting certain products especially those of animal origin


  1. Check that you have an EORI number. If not; please contact HMRC
  2. Check your commodity/tariff codes
  3. Know what 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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

Trade with the rest of the world

Leaving the EU will affect the UK’s trade with the rest of the world in a variety of ways.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal it will introduce a new tariff schedule. See the section on Tariffs on this site for more details.

These tariffs would apply to imports from all countries, except for those where a trade deal is in place.

The UK currently participates in around 40 trade agreements negotiated by the EU with more than 70 countries, representing c11% of the UK’s total trade. All of these would legally cease to apply as soon as the UK leaves the EU.  

However the UK is seeking to negotiate “continuity agreements” with as many of these countries as possible. A list of the agreements agreed to date is kept here:

Under these continuity agreements, the tariffs applied to imports entering the UK would be unchanged, unless the new default UK rate is lower, in which case that would apply.  

For exports from the UK, there will be no difference when sending goods to countries that do not have a trade deal with the EU. The UK already trades on a WTO ‘Most Favoured Nation’ basis with these countries and will continue to do so.  

For those that do have a deal and have signed a continuity agreement, the changes will probably be minimal apart from the Rules of Origin. To qualify for a preferential tariff, products will need to meet the criteria as UK-produced, and not just EU-produced as currently.

However, there may be additional technicalities within some agreements that could affect you, so seek advice if you’re not sure.

For those countries that have a trade deal with the EU but have not signed a continuity agreement with the UK, exports from the UK will become subject to each country’s default WTO tariffs and rules.  

There may also be some gaps between the UK leaving the EU without a deal and certain continuity agreements coming into legal force. If so, there would be a limited period of trading under basic WTO rules with these countries. Check for information on this at the time.

Extra complications will apply for any trade between the UK and the rest of the world that is routed via the EU. Again, seek expert advice if you are unclear about this.