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HMRC warns traders to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period – and to avoid moving goods until they are confident

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Two weeks out from the end of the Brexit transition period, HMRC is reminding traders that they need to adapt to new ways of importing and exporting in time for January 1. It also is warning those that are not confident of their readiness not to move goods from that date since doing so could add delays and costs. 

The UK and EU are still discussing what form their trading relationship will take from January 1 – with a no deal Brexit still hanging in the balance. But HMRC says those ongoing negotiations will not affect the deadline, since no further extensions will be made, or the fact that the way businesses trade with the EU will change. It emphasis that changes to customs and tax rules will affect everyone who trades with EU countries, no matter what they buy or sell, how frequently they trade or how their goods are transported.

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean, directors general, borders and trade at HMRC, say: “We understand the complex pressures that all businesses are dealing with this winter, as a result of Covid-19. But everyone in the UK who trades with EU countries or will move goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol will be affected by new processes and rules from 1 January 2021. They must take action to protect their business or risk disruption in the New Year.

“We urge businesses to act now. HMRC is working hard to help you prepare so you can continue to trade smoothly at the end of the Brexit transition period. Please take advantage of the help on offer – including live webinars, videos and forums.”

HMRC is encouraging retailers and other traders to complete the new trader checklist, on GOV.UK, in order to identify the steps they need to take. It also flags up the following as action that needs to be taken now. 

  • Check when to make customs declarations: From January 1 2021, you will need to make declarations for goods you import and export. However, if you import goods from  EU countries that are not controlled, you may be able to delay making declarations for up to six months
  • Get ready to make customs declarations. Customs declarations are complex and time consuming. Most businesses use a specialist, such as a customs broker, freight forwarder or fast parcel operator, says HMRC, to deal with customs for them. This is important regardless of the amount or value of trade your business does with Europe.
  • Those that plan to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from January 1 should register for the free to use Trader Support Service.

CASE STUDY How Pittards has prepared for Brexit

Yeovil-based Pittards, founded in 1826, exports 92% of the performance leathers and finished leather goods that it makes in the UK and sells direct to its customers online, through its own luxury mens’ label Daines & Hathaway and through third-party customers. It uses freight forwarders to ensure that its goods get to the end customer on time. 

Since the manufacturer also ships goods around the world – beyond the EU –  it says its export documentation can already be used for shipping to EU countries following the Brexit transition period, with no major changes needed. It has checked its existing practices with freight and customs agents and is now working with suppliers and retailers to prepare for new EU trading rules. 

That includes providing clearing agent contact information to suppliers so they can advise its agent of the goods before they arrive in the UK. It is also working on Incoterms with its EU suppliers to ensure goods travel on the correct delivery terms on import – communication between its purchasing and logistics team has strengthened as a result. It is also ensuring that it is familiar with the EU’s rules of origin regulations. 

Its freight forwarder is responsible for delivering goods on the agreed date and submitting customs declarations, checking Pittards’ export/import paperwork, classification and rules of origin, invoices and packing lists, so that the correct tariffs and values are applied.

Reg Hankey chief executive of Pittards says: “Pittards exports UK manufacturing excellence around the world, we are proud of that and have firm plans in place to extend that trading, both in and beyond Europe.

“As a global exporter with already exacting industry compliance standards, Pittards will able to transition to new EU trading, and our in-house logistics team with its international experience and expertise has laid a solid foundation for the transition.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything Pittards does, from engineering performance leathers that are water resistant and antibacterial, for global brands and the military, to producing premium leather goods, and we will take that same innovative spirit and apply it to all that we do next year to ensure that we thrive.”

HMRC points traders towards GOV.UK for information on customs processes for our goods. It says that businesses appointing a freight forwarder for the first time should consider whether the company has previous experience of exporting to the countries that they need to send to, and whether they have hubs in the UK dedicated to EU imports and exports and whether they have hubs in Europe for the return trip. 

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