Bringing Goods Into the UK From the EU? Read This First

February 8, 2024
Bringing Goods Into the UK From the EU? Read This First

Thinking of bringing goods into the UK from the EU post-Brexit? This well-trodden trading path is now paved with updated considerations and regulations.

Let’s start by untangling some geographical terminology, which matters in the relevant legislation:

  • The United Kingdom is made up of four nations – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • Great Britain, on the other hand, excludes Northern Ireland.

Understanding this distinction is going to be important as we delve into the intricacies of bringing goods into the UK from the EU.

From machinery built with German precision to the rich aromas of French wines, and from prefabricated building materials engineered in Poland to high-quality Dutch POAO and livestock; the types of goods entering the UK are as diverse as the countries they hail from.

Importers deal with an array of products, from consumer goods and electronics to specialised machinery and agricultural produce. According to government statistics, 23.1% of the UK’s total imports comes from just three EU nations (Germany, The Netherlands, France), representing a value of £211.1 billion.

But, for UK importers, there are risks. Failure to adhere to customs compliance and regulatory frameworks can lead to delays, fines, and seizure or rejection of goods.

So what exactly do you need to know to safeguard your operation?

Enhance knowledge. Reduce delays. Cut costs.

Prepare for seamless and cost-efficient operations with specialised training.

Border Ready Importing & Exporting >>

The Post-Brexit State of Play: A Snapshot

With the dust of Brexit seemingly settled, the nature of cross-border trade emerges somewhat transformed. Here’s a snapshot of the key elements that now define the post-Brexit state of play for bringing goods into the UK from the EU:

  1. EORI Numbers: This unique identifier is your passport for customs declarations and interactions with authorities. Make sure you have one; it’s your entry ticket to cross-border markets.
  2. Customs Declarations: Pre-Brexit, seamless trade was the norm within the EU’s single market. Now, each consignment must be accompanied by the necessary paperwork, declaring the nature, value, and origin of the goods.
  3. Commodity Codes and Tariffs: Every product is assigned a code, and tariffs are applied accordingly.
  4. VAT and Import Duties: Knowing the rules around VAT payments and when import duties apply is essential for a smooth passage through customs.
  5. Regulatory Compliance: Goods arriving in the UK must meet its standards and regulations, from safety directives to product labelling.
  6. Rules for Northern Ireland: The Northern Ireland Protocol introduces unique arrangements for Ireland – UK trade that require careful consideration.

During the Brexit transition period, HM Government published a guide to the support available for importers, much of which holds true and is still useful.


Your Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is perhaps the key piece of your import-export journey in the post-Brexit era. This unique identifier, issued by HM Revenue & Customs, is your passport for seamless trade between the UK and the EU.

Recognised across the EU, it distinguishes you as a legitimate economic operator engaged in cross-border trade. Whether you’re importing or exporting, this number is how customs authorities know you’re a genuine organisation.

Authorities also use it to monitor your imports and exports, helping ensure compliance with regulations and tax obligations.

In short, getting your EORI number is a proactive and necessary step. The process is straightforward, and having this number in hand well before your goods arrive minimises the risk of delays and disruptions.

Customs Declarations

Customs declarations are the official paperwork that confirms your goods comply with the regulations of both the UK and the EU. They detail what you’re importing or exporting, its value, origin, and intended use.

Accurate declarations are your pledge of allegiance to trade rules. Incomplete or inaccurate declarations can lead to delays in processing your goods, affecting supply chains and customer satisfaction. Worse, they may invite penalties and additional charges.

They also ensure you pay the correct import duties, VAT, and other applicable taxes.

Should You Do It Yourself?

The question of whether to tackle customs declarations in-house or seek external help is one that all importers will sooner or later face.

Pros of DIY Declarations

  • Doing it yourself may – initially, at least – be cost-effective, as you avoid professional fees.
  • Handling declarations internally gives direct control and oversight.
  • It can be an educational experience, with insights into the complexities of international trade regulations.

Cons of DIY Declarations

  • Customs procedures are notoriously intricate, and regulations can change often.
  • Preparing and submitting accurate declarations is incredibly time-consuming.
  • Even a small misclassification or incorrect valuation can lead to delays, penalties, and costs.

If you’d like specialist, professional and independent assistance with your customs declarations, don’t hesitate to contact clearBorder today.

Importing / Exporting to or From Northern Ireland

The movement of goods to and from Northern Ireland has undergone significant changes with the implementation of the Windsor Framework. Understanding and adapting to these changes is crucial for businesses engaged in cross-border trade.

The Trader Support Service guides businesses through the intricacies of the new trade landscape. Whether you’re importing or exporting, TSS provides essential support including:

  • Expert guidance
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Documentation support
  • Timely updates

To ensure the smooth flow of goods, businesses must be proactive in their preparations for the altered trade environment. The Trader Support Service offers assistance to businesses in adapting to the new trade dynamics; notably, it is free to use.

Commodity Codes

Commodity codes are a fundamental aspect of international trade, serving as a standardised classification system for goods.

They play a crucial role in customs declarations, helping authorities and businesses precisely identify and categorise products. Understanding commodity codes and correctly applying them is essential for a smooth and compliant import/export process.

Things To Remember:

  1. Universal Identification: Commodity codes provide a universal method for identifying goods in international trade. Each code corresponds to a specific product.
  2. Precision in Classification: The classification of goods into the correct commodity code is critical. It determines the applicable tariffs, taxes, and regulatory requirements. Misclassification can lead to financial penalties, delays, or other compliance issues.
  3. Tariff and Duty Calculation: Commodity codes are directly linked to tariff rates and import duties. Accurate classification ensures that businesses pay the correct amount of customs duties.
  4. Customs Declarations: When completing customs declarations, importers and exporters must include the relevant commodity codes for their goods.
  5. Harmonized System (HS): Commodity codes are often part of the Harmonized System (HS), an internationally standardised system for naming and classifying products. The first six digits of the code are standardised globally, while countries may add additional digits for further specificity.

Duty Deferment Account (DDA)

A DDA allows businesses to postpone the payment of customs duties and taxes that are typically due at the time of import. This deferral can span a set period, offering greater flexibility in managing financial resources.

By deferring duty payments, businesses can optimise their cash flow. This proves particularly advantageous when dealing with large volumes of imports, as it provides additional time for the settlement of financial obligations.

Essentially, using a Duty Deferment Account streamlines the customs clearance process.

As duties are not required to be paid upfront, the clearance process can proceed without the immediate financial transaction, contributing to operational efficiency.

HMRC oversees the administration and regulation of DDAs. Businesses must adhere to HMRC guidelines and meet specified criteria to qualify. The application process involves demonstrating financial solvency and compliance with HMRC requirements.

Tobacco & Alcohol

The importation of tobacco and alcohol into the UK post-Brexit demands an understanding of regulatory frameworks, compliance measures, and specific challenges posed by these sensitive goods. Here’s a comprehensive overview to guide importers through:

Tobacco Importation:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Importers of tobacco must adhere to regulations set by HMRC and the Tobacco Products Duty (TPD).
  • Customs Declarations: Accurate and detailed customs declarations include specifying the type and quantity of tobacco products, along with meeting necessary documentation standards.
  • Excise Duty: Tobacco products are subject to excise duty, and importers must ensure the correct payment of these duties. The Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS) may be used for certain movements of excise goods.
  • Anti-Smuggling Measures: Due to the high value of tobacco products, there’s an increased risk of smuggling. Importers need to implement robust security measures and collaborate with relevant authorities to prevent illicit trade.

Alcohol Importation:

  • Alcohol Duty Rates: Alcohol importers must understand the duty rates applicable to various alcoholic beverages. Different rates are applied based on factors such as alcohol content and product type.
  • Customs Declarations: As with tobacco, accurate and comprehensive customs declarations are essential for alcohol shipments.
  • Excise Duty: Alcoholic beverages are subject to excise duty, and importers must ensure the correct payment of these duties. Compliance with excise rules and regulations is critical for lawful trade.
  • Alcohol Licensing: Importers may need specific licences or authorisations to handle alcohol. It’s essential to verify and obtain the necessary permits to ensure legal compliance.

Explosives Precursors & Poisons

Importing goods classified as explosives precursors and poisons requires a heightened level of scrutiny and adherence to strict regulatory frameworks.

Due to the sensitive nature of explosives precursors, importers must implement robust security measures to prevent misuse or unauthorised access. Collaboration with relevant authorities is essential for maintaining a secure supply chain.

Of course, thorough customs declarations and mandatory licences are essential for importing shipments, and traders must also be in possession of a valid EORI number.

Ready To Import?

Importing goods to the UK from the EU presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses.

It opens the door to a wealth of products and markets, enabling businesses to diversify their offerings and cater to evolving consumer demands, and collaborating with EU suppliers fosters economic growth and strengthens trade relationships.

However, life after Brexit sees new customs procedures and regulations, increasing the complexity of importing goods. Traders may incur new taxes or tariffs, and changes in health and safety standards, licensing requirements, and product certifications can impact operations.

For these reasons, we’d strongly recommend engaging with a customs compliance trade consultant.

Doing so means you’ll receive expert guidance, bespoke trade strategies, mitigate risks, and optimise time and capital resources for your business. Contact us now to learn more about how clearBorder can help you trade seamlessly across borders.