The Government produced guidance in July 2020 outlining the implementation of border controls in three stages for importing and exporting goods. This document outlines the processes for moving goods between GB and the EU from 1 January 2021 onwards, including processes to be introduced in April 2021 and July 2021.

Import and export controls are generally reserved, but the areas of food safety, the protection of human, animal and plant health, and the environment, are devolved to the governments of Wales and Scotland. This may lead to some differences in precise requirements and enforcement bodies. Please see below for a key timeline for the movement of goods between the UK and EU.

January 2021

Traders importing standard goods will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping records of imported goods. Traders will also need to consider how they account for and pay VAT on imported goods. Traders will then have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will be payable where due on relevant goods, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made.

April 2021

All products of animal origin (POAO) and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation. Any physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination until July 2021.

July 2021

Traders moving any goods will have to make full customs declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required.

The EU has said it will not replicate the UK’s phased plan, so declarations will be needed for exports from 1 January 2021. Exporters can use the new ‘Check duties and customs procedures for exporting goods’ tool on to identify what additional paperwork, tariffs and quotas are applicable. Please click here to access this tool.

Businesses can also apply to HMRC for an advance ruling on the commodity code that should be used for their goods and the origin of their goods. For full details, please click here.


Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change from the 1st of January 2021. European trips will need more planning and the Government has outlined things you may need to do before you travel to include:

  • Checking your passport is current.
  • Get travel insurance that covers your healthcare.
  • Check you have the right driving documents.
  • Organise pet travel – contact your vet at least 4 months before you go.
  • There are more things to do if you are travelling for business. For example, going to meetings and conferences, providing services (even with a charity), and touring art or music.

For further travel guidance, please click here.