5 Customs tips for navigating Brexit

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Image of European Flag and United Kingdom FlagMany people assumed that Brexit would be done and dusted by now, but the debate and uncertainty rumbles on. At times it can feel like there is nothing you can do but sit back and wait while those in charge come to some sort of conclusion, but if your business is involved with trading in and out of the EU in any way, there are measures you can take immediately to help you prepare for the various potential eventualities. Here, we share five custom tips for navigating Brexit, including a no-deal Brexit. 

1)  Apply for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP)

Earlier this year, HMRC announced the introduction of the ‘Transitional Simplified Procedure’ (TSP). This is designed to help to make the process of importing goods to the UK from EU countries easier in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and perhaps beyond if a deal is concluded.

Businesses can register for TSP using a simple, free online form. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, TSP means that you won’t have to make full customs declarations at the border or pay import duties immediately, so it is designed to minimise delays at ports.

TSP would at this stage only be required if a no-deal Brexit occurred but it means that if required to be used, you then have six months after import to make your full customs declaration and pay any import duties.

If you do not have TSP authorisation, you would have to make the declarations and submit paperwork before your goods get to ports, otherwise you wouldn’t legally be able to import.

2)  Consider Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status existed well before Brexit negotiations began and is a way for importers and exporters to speed up the customs process. Registering for AEO status means your business has an internationally-recognised quality kite mark that your role in the international supply chain is secure and that you are efficient and compliant with customs controls. It will stand you in good stead regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations and could save your business time and money in the long run.

This is particularly so given that any simplifications that HMRC offer, even those such as TSP which are currently temporarily allowed to any business, are likely only to be available to AEO authorised businesses post Brexit, so prior planning is worthwhile.

3)  Hire a customs agent

In a letter sent to British businesses earlier this year, the government advised firms to consider hiring a customs agent to make declarations for them while handling relevant paperwork. It is possible to use compatible software and make your own customs declarations, but errors can be costly and an agent will ensure you are compliant. Start speaking to customs agents as soon as possible so that you have one in place when you need this service.

4)  Plan for the worst case scenario

There are still many possible outcomes of the Brexit negotiations and this is causing some businesses to shy away from planning until there is a clear frontrunner. However, preparing for the worst-case scenario of a no-deal Brexit is still the best way you can protect yourself. The measures outlined above will help you to prepare, as well as spelling out exactly how you and your supply chain would be affected if there was no deal agreed between Britain and the EU. You could also consider how the measures in the prime minister’s Withdrawal Bill would affect your business, then prepare accordingly.

5)  Speak to your suppliers 

As well as having your own procedures in place to prepare for Brexit, you need to make sure your suppliers are also considering how it will impact them. This is especially true if you have suppliers in European countries, who might not be prioritising the issue as much as British firms. Ask them about their own measures for a no deal Brexit, as well as how they would react if the Withdrawal Bill were passed. If they cannot provide a firm answer to these questions, continue prompting them to make plans so that you can coordinate your own preparations.

The same planning can also be of use where you export to EU countries to ensure continuity of the sales supply chain.

The above measures will stand your business in good stead for the months ahead, but it is important to always keep up to date with the latest news and government advice regarding Brexit. Engaging with the subject and ensuring your preparations can flex in response to any changes should help to minimise the impact on your business. For more advice on how to prepare your customs processes for Brexit, speak to one of our experts at The Customs People.

By David Miller, Customs & AEO Consultant and co-founder of The Customs People

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