I am a UK importer – what do I need to know about the supply chains for getting my goods out of the EU and imported into the UK?
Exporting through RoRo Ports
Step 1 – Who can export goods from the EU, and do they need to register?
Following the end of the transition period, UK registered businesses cannot act as the EU exporter, even if they have an EU VAT number. A UK business will need an EU registered company to act as an exporter or as a representative for them in order to export goods from the EU. The exporter has to be established in the EU and involved in the operation (so could be a freight forwarder or carrier etc).
Every EU business exporting goods will need to have an Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification (EORI) number from a customs authority in the EU. After the transition period, only EORI numbers issued by an EU member state will be acceptable in the EU.
Exporters will need to have an EU EORI number even if they use a forwarder or customs agent for export declarations. A business can apply for an EORI number from customs authorities across the EU.
Step 2 – Should I agree trading terms and conditions with the EU exporter or their agent in advance?
The UK importer and EU exporter should agree terms and conditions so that the responsibility for tariffs, duties and border formalities is clear. The International Chambers of Commerce create and publish a standard set of trading terms and conditions for traders who are buying, selling, transporting, and clearing goods. It is important to determine which party will be responsible for any consequences of customs checks, and who will be financially responsible in case of any issues.
Step 3 – If I am importing controlled, restricted or prohibited goods, what do I need to do to prepare my goods for export from the EU?
Certificates or licenses will be required to export certain goods and types of products. This includes food and feed, live animals, endangered species, dual-use goods, drugs and chemicals. Certificates will need to be applied for at least two weeks in advance (time limits may vary between EU Member States).UK Authorities will need to be pre-notified through the UK’s Import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS) about the arrival of some goods. The relevant licences or certificates will need to accompany the goods.
As now, live animals and high-risk animal by-products entering the UK from the EU must be pre- notified. From April 2021 high risk food and feed products entering the UK must be pre-notified. For live animals, germplasm, and products of animal origin (POAO) subject to safeguarding measures the UK importer should supply the EU exporter / Official Veterinarian (OV) with the unique notification number (UNN) that is produced when the importer notifies the UK’s Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) about the import. The exporter must add the UNN to the commercial documentation or health certificate (if one is required).
Step 4 – Has the exporter prepared any necessary Export Health Certificates?
An export health certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms an export meets the health requirements of the UK. The certificate must be signed by an EU official vet (OV). A completed EHC is required for each type of animal or animal product being exported from the EU to the UK. If a consignment includes a mix of products, a separate EHC will be required for each type of product.
The transporter of the goods must carry the necessary certificates and licenses so they can be presented at the border if requested.
Step 5 – Has the exporter or their agent submitted the customs declaration(s)?
The exporter or their agent must submit the customs declaration at an EU office of export, and produce one of the following documents:
• Export Accompanying Document (EAD) from which the Movement Reference Number (MRN) is generated – and which may also contain the data for the safety and security declaration. For goods under a certain value, an Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) is sufficient, and no EAD is needed.
• Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) / Movement Reference Number (MRN)
• A combined Transit (Security) Accompanying Document (TSAD) / Movement Reference Number (MRN) (this option may not be available in some Member States for a few years)
If there is no customs declaration, there is a requirement to confirm that a separate Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) has been lodged into the Member State Export Control System (ECS).The export accompanying document (EAD) produced will contain the movement reference number (MRN) that the haulier should present at the EU border. The MRN is a number and a bar code. The customs declaration should be submitted by the exporter or their agent into the Member States customs system.
If a merged customs and safety and security declaration has not been submitted a separate EXS must be provided by the carrier of the export or their representative.
Step 6 – Am I moving goods subject to excise duty?
The Export Accompanying Document (EAD) covers the export from the EU into the UK, but if the goods are subject to excise duty (alcohol, tobacco, oils) and are moving in duty suspension, they will move to the EU border on the electronic accompanying document (e-AD).
The process below sets out how excise goods circulate between Member States:
• The eAD is validated in the Member State of dispatch. A European register of operators (SEED) is used to check the excise numbers of the consignor and consignee.
• The eAD is electronically transmitted by the Member State of dispatch to the Member State of destination.
• The Member State of destination forwards the eAD to the consignee
• The consignee submits a “report of receipt” once he/she has received the excise goods. This report should mention any anomalies, such as shortages or excesses in the consignment.
• The report of receipt is sent to the consignor who can then discharge the movement and recover the financial guarantees they had to make for the excise products.
The movement of excise goods under duty suspension is monitored on a computerised system, the Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS). Detail about this system is available at:
For exporting excise goods to the UK, the duty suspended movement will end at the EU border and the movement will become an export to the UK, using the EAD only.
The eAD is validated in the EU country of export, detailing ‘Export to non-EU country’, and the eAD is mentioned in the customs declaration for export along with the Administrative Reference Code (ARC) number (more information on this below). The eAD is in force until the goods leave the EU: the eAD is automatically released when the Export Control System (ECS) message is sent on the export customs declaration.
The ARC system
ARC is the service available to Economic Operators and Member States officials that shows the state of EMCS (Excise Movement Control System) international movements through the Europa website.
It is sufficient to enter an ARC (Administrative Reference Code) to get the state of the corresponding EMCS movement.
Step 7 – has the exporter provided the haulage company / driver with all the necessary documentation prior to them setting off for the EU border?
The EU exporter or their agent must make sure that they provide the following documents and / or data to accompany the consignments, to be presented at check-in at the EU border:
• the original, wet signed, EHC, if one is needed;
• Any CITES (endangered species) documentation required;
• one of the 3 Movement Reference Numbers (a barcode):
• Export Accompanying Document (EAD) from which the Movement Reference Number (MRN) is generated – and which may also contain the data for the safety & security declaration.
• Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) / Movement Reference Number (MRN)
• A combined Transit (Security) Accompanying Document (TSAD) / Movement
Reference Number (MRN) (this option may not be available in some Member States for a few years)
If there is no customs declaration, there is a requirement to confirm that a separate Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) has been lodged into the Member State Export Control System (ECS).
Step 8 – The exporter has contacted me to say that my goods are being selected for a control at the border – what does this mean?
Once an export declaration and associated data has been submitted to the administrations, the various authorities in the Member States will risk assess that data – and they may select the consignment so they can check the documents and / or the goods. Documentation for CITES specimens require 100% checks at the border, relevant documentation must be presented to Border Officials on leaving the EU and on entering the UK.
Step 9 – The exporter will want to zero rate the supply for export (VAT) Evidence of export is one of the proofs that can be provided in order to zero rate the supply of goods for VAT in an exporter’s records.
Crossing the border without the correct customs declarations means that the person responsible for the goods will have to pay VAT both in the EU territory and the UK, in addition to a possible customs penalty at the border.