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Exporting from UK to the EU – streamlining the transport of goods

Since early 2020, Brexit and COVID-19 have caused a perfect storm for UK exporters and their logistics partners. Two years on, as both issues evolve and continue to cause pain and suffering, managing change became a skill within supply chains.  As COVID-19 problems hopefully recede, the fallout from Brexit will be with us for longer.

What has changed in 2022?

From 1 January 2022 exports between Great Britain and the EU are subject to full customs controls.  These new Government regulations, delayed since mid-2021, have added some complexity to already challenging requirements. 

All firms exporting to the EU are required to complete customs declarations, while additional licensing and certification requirements may apply if exporting certain controlled goods – for example, agri-foods, plants, military and dual-use items.  

To support full customs controls on goods, particularly those locations with limited space or infrastructure, the government has introduced the goods vehicle movement service (GVMS) at the key ports:  Dover, Eurotunnel, Felixstowe, Harwich and Hull.  We are now experiencing additional delays at customs and borders; the extra documentation needed is adding costs.  The new checks are said to be taking up to 15 minutes per vehicle and contributing to queues at exit ports. Unfortunately, Brexit disruptions remain among the biggest concerns facing industry bosses for the year ahead.

The position with health checks is fluid and subject to instant change, The Government advises hauliers to check the most up-to-date COVID-19 requirements before attempting any international journey. 

Food exports

Food manufacture is one of Britain’s biggest employers and the largest single manufacturing sector, ahead of the automotive and chemical industries. The export of food products from the UK has been heavily impacted by both Brexit and COVID-19 since 2020. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the sector’s exports declined by £2.7bn between January and September 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, a drop it blamed largely on a 24% decrease in sales to EU countries.  Although there are signs of recovery, regulations are creating delays.  For example, almost all plants and plant products, including fruits, vegetables, flowers and seeds, require a phytosanitary certificate before being allowed into the EU.  All dairy products are regulated, including truck drivers’ own refreshments. 

Dominic Goudie, the FDF’s head of international trade, said it was essential that government ministers worked constructively with the EU to improve relations, otherwise this downturn will be here to stay.  Goudie continued, “it is extremely disappointing to see how badly our trade with the EU has been affected, with our smallest exporters hardest hit. It is vital that the UK government and devolved nations continue to work with industry to put in place a new model of partnership to support food and drink exporters.”

Exports to Germany

New figures show that British businesses are missing out on Germany’s economic recovery with UK exports 19 percent below pre-pandemic levels. Data from the German government reveals that UK exports to Germany in December 2021 stood at just €2.6bn, the lowest level for December since records began in 2000.  The UK’s high technology firms have suffered most from the downturn in trade with Germany, which previously accounted for 10 percent of all UK exports.  As of November 2021, the UK’s monthly exports to Germany of aircraft, electric machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers were down by €342m compared with pre-pandemic levels – a fall of 27%.

Exports to France

France has implemented a smart border system for processing freight using both the ferry and Eurotunnel crossings. It pairs customs declaration data with the vehicle registration number transporting the consignment(s). The driver will be informed en route – via screens onboard the driver carriage at Eurotunnel or in the drivers’ lounges on the ferries if:

  • they can proceed – they will be ‘green routed’
  • they need to present to goods for customs review and are “orange-routed”

More changes coming   

Changes in the regulations are still being phased in. Van drivers in the UK will need new operating licenses from May 21, 2022.  From that date, anyone operating a light goods vehicle and/or trailer between 2.5 and 3.5 tons in an EU member state will be required to have a goods vehicle operator’s license.  The changes will only apply to anyone operating a light goods vehicle for hire or reward.

What businesses can do to optimise their process

Familiarise yourselves with the latest regulations relating to your products; these include knowing how to classify goods correctly, preparing to make customs declarations and, how to follow health, safety and security requirements.

  1. Know how to classify goods correctly. Incorrect commodity codes or inaccurate recording of origin in customs declarations may mean that the wrong amount of tax or duty will be charged. Professional help may be needed to ensure correct classification.
  2. Prepare all the required customs declaration forms correctly
  3. The EU requires safety and security declarations on imports from the UK. Make sure that you understand these and comply.

If you are facing difficulties in exporting to the EU, our consultants have the expertise to explore solutions that can support your business to overcome them. We can also review existing export arrangements to identify opportunities to reduce customs charges, evaluate compliance, or assist in evaluating the best way to operate internationally. Give us a call on 01926 430 883 or complete our enquiry form.

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