A no-deal Brexit will undoubtedly have consequences for importers and exporters
If you live in the UK, you might be finding it difficult to get away from the Brexit debate. “Hard Brexit”, “soft Brexit”, “Brexit means Brexit”, “no-deal Brexit” — day after day, terms related to the UK’s imminent departure from the EU are bandied repeatedly in British media and culture. And there’s so much uncertainty about what the UK’s EU divorce settlement will look like, it’s enough to make even the strongest Leave advocates grow weary.
Nevertheless, the date of the UK’s exit from the EU is fast approaching and failing a dramatic u-turn, as of 23:00 GMT on Friday March 29, 2019, the country will no longer be a member of the multinational trading bloc. With 95% of the UK’s international trade carried through its ports, shipping is an industry that will undeniably be impacted by the ramifications of Brexit. For companies, the uncertainty of how the UK’s trading relations with the EU will appear after the deadline is difficult to contend with.
The UK Government has sought to inform the public as to the implications for the trade in goods between the UK and EU nations of a no-deal Brexit — whereby the UK would leave the EU without agreement. Near the end of August, the UK Government published guidance entitled Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal. The document explains what would happen to customs and excise procedures in the event of a no-deal scenario on March 29, as well as what businesses trading with the EU will need to know.
According to the guidance, if the UK left the EU on March 29 without an agreement, the free movement of goods between the UK and EU would stop. The document continues by giving three examples of how businesses trading with the EU would be affected. Firstly, companies would have to apply the same customs rules to goods moving between the UK and the EU as those currently applicable to goods moving between the UK and non-EU countries (with customs duty potentially also due on EU imports). Customs declarations would therefore have to be made when products enter or leave the UK. Additionally, separate safety and security declarations would have to be made by the items’ carrier (normally the haulier, airline or shipping line, depending on the transport mode used to import or export them).
If the UK left the EU on March 29 without an agreement, the free movement of goods between the UK and EU would stop
Secondly, the EU would put customs and excise rules on goods it gets from the UK in the same way it does for products it gets from outside the EU. This means the EU would require customs declarations on goods coming from or going to the UK, plus safety and security declarations. The third and final example is that for excise goods movements, the Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) would no longer be used to control suspended EU–UK movements. However, EMCS would still control the movement of duty suspended excise goods within the UK (including movements to and from UK ports and airports and the Channel Tunnel). Therefore, immediately upon UK importation, companies moving excise goods within the EU (including in duty suspension) would have to put them into UK excise duty suspension or pay duty.
For companies importing EU goods, a no-deal Brexit would mean following customs procedures the same way they currently do when importing non-EU goods. Thus, for EU goods going into the UK, import declarations would be needed, customs checks might occur and any customs duties would need payment. Before importing EU products, a firm would have to register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, ensure their contracts and International Terms and Conditions of Service reflect that they are an importer, consider how they would submit import declarations (including whether to use a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider) and decide upon their items’ correct classification and value (and enter this on the customs declaration).
When actually importing EU items, a company would need a valid EORI number and would have to ensure their carrier has submitted an Entry Summary Declaration at the right time, submit an import declaration to HMRC using their software (or get their customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to do so) and pay Value Added Tax (VAT) and import duties, including excise duty on excise goods unless the goods go into duty suspension (import VAT may also be due). When excise goods leave a customs suspensive arrangement, they might immediately gointo an excise duty suspension regime, and a business would have to declare them on EMCS for onward movement via a Registered Consignor. Companies might also have to apply for an import licence or give supporting documentation to import specific kinds of goods into the UK, or comply with the relevant customs import procedure’s conditions.
The UK Government’s stance is that both itself and the EU are seeking a positive deal, and in September, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she believed that European Council president Donald Tusk had “clarified … there is hope and expectation for a deal on the side of the European Union”. However, she later noted that she had “always said no deal is better than a bad deal”, adding: “I think a bad deal will be a deal, for example, that broke up the United Kingdom.”
For businesses exporting goods to the EU, a no-deal Brexit would mean them following customs procedures like they do currently when exporting goods to a non-EU nation. Similar to the above, before exporting to this destination, they would need to register for an UK EORI number, ensure their contracts and INCOTERMS reflect that they are an exporter and consider how they would submit export declarations (again, including whether to use a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider). When they do export, companies would need to possess a valid EORI number and submit an export declaration to HMRC (or get their customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to do so — additionally, the export declaration may need to be lodged in advance so export permission is given before the goods leave the UK). Firms might also need to apply for an export licence or provide supporting documentation to export specific kinds of goods from the UK, or meet the terms of the relevant customs export procedure. When exporting duty suspended excise goods to the EU, a business would have to keep using EMCS to record the duty suspended movement from a UK warehouse or premises to the port of export.
For carriers, a no-deal scenario would mean them having to make a Safety and Security Declaration for goods moving between the UK and EU. This declaration comes in two forms: an Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) and an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). A carrier generally needs to send an EXS to the customs authority of the country from which the consignment is being exported. For consignments exported from the UK, this declaration generally forms part of the Export Declaration. Additionally, a carrier must send an ENS to the customs authority of the nation the consignment is entering.
Much more information on how shippers may be affected by a no-deal Brexit is available here.
The Baltic Exchange will hold its next Shipping Economics & Investment course on 14 and 15 January next year. More information can be found here.