Exporting and importing goods if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

Import and export processes that UK businesses trading with the EU would need to follow in the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal.


In the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal, from 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020), many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world.

The actions set out in this guidance do not apply to importing or exporting goods between Northern Ireland-Ireland. We will write to you with information about this as soon as we can.

Checklist of things you’ll need to do in preparation

Here is a list of things you’ll need to do in preparation that are covered in greater detail within this guide and accompanying guides:

Before you import or export goods

You need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI).

Before you import or export any goods, check if they’re controlled goods.

Exporting goods

Find out the commodity code of your goods

Commodity codes classify your goods so you that can fill in export declarations accurately.

Research the destinations you want to export to. This background information, along with the commodity code of the goods will help you work out if the goods will incur import duty in the destination country.

Choose the right customs procedure code for your goods

Customs procedure codes identify the customs or excise processes that you may want to use depending on what your business does, for example importing goods into a customs-approved warehouse, so that you can suspend payment of duty and VAT until they’re sent to a UK customer from the warehouse.

Importing goods

Find out the commodity code of your goods

Commodity codes classify goods so you can:

  • fill in declarations accurately
  • check if there’s duty to pay
  • find out about duty reliefs

Classifying your goods correctly means that you:

  • pay the right amount of duty
  • know if duty is suspended on any of your goods
  • know if you can apply any preferential duty rates
  • know if you need to get an import or export licence

If you’re unsure about how to classify your goods, check the product classification guides or the Trade Tariff lists all commodity codes.

You can also email HMRC classification.enquiries@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk for further advice.

Work out the value of your goods

You need to know the value of your goods to work out the level of Customs Duty you apply.

Check whether any reliefs apply

Duty relief schemes allow you to pay less or no duty on imports and exports.

Check whether you can use any customs procedures

There are customs procedures you can use to suspend duty to HMRC. They help businesses to manage cash-flow.

How to complete European Community Sales Lists

You need to send your completed European Community Sales Lists (ECSL) for the period ending 31 March 2019 as normal if:

  • you’re a VAT-registered business in the UK
  • you supply goods or services to EU VAT-registered customers

You should only include details of sales made to EU VAT-registered customers before 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020). Your completed ECSL must be submitted:

  • by 14 April 2019 for paper submissions
  • by 21 April 2019 for online submissions

If you complete a simplified annual ECSL and the due date is later than April 2019, we’ll contact you before the end of March to tell you what you need to do.

If we receive the ECSL late you may have to pay a penalty.

VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2019 will not need an ECSL. The final returns will be:

  • 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2019 – for quarterly returns
  • 1 March 2019 to 31 March 2019 – for monthly returns

You’ll still be able to submit or correct ECSLs for VAT periods ending before 31 March 2019. You can either do this online or by downloading and posting forms VAT101VAT101A and VAT101B to HMRC.

More information

Find out how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

Published 4 December 2018

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