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Goods in the EU can move freely between member states and are not subject to customs duties or quantitative restrictions.

Interlinked with the free movement of goods are regulations surrounding consumer protection, in which goods must meet specific standards. EU VAT regulations ensure that no double-taxation of VAT occurs for any cross-border supplies of goods.

We can provide expert advice on:

  • Applying for Special Customs Procedures and Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO)
  • Checking local VAT registrations
  • Reviewing your future plans and forecasts
  • Reviewing your supply chain
  • Foreign exchange implications
  • Preparing for the cash flow impact of restrictions on imports and exports

Typical questions from our clients:

If the Withdrawal Agreement passes Parliament and the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020, what are the initial changes for trade with goods?

Provided that the Withdrawal Agreement passes Parliament, the UK would leave the EU on 31 January 2020, however, a transitional period would automatically commence on 1 February 2020 which guarantees that EU law continues to apply, at least until 31 December 2020. During the transitional period the single market rules, including EU VAT rules, continue to apply in the same way as before. The UK would also continue to be a member of the EU customs union at least until 31 December 2020 with no changes to EU trade with goods.

What are the consequences for EU trade if the UK leaves the EU single market for goods and the EU customs union?

If the Withdrawal Agreement passes Parliament the UK could leave the EU single market and customs union as early as 31 December 2020. At this point EU legal alignment could potentially be replaced with a free trade agreement with the EU.

Is the UK’s VAT regime changing?

During the transitional period it is unlikely that the UK VAT law would diverge from the EU rules. However, once the UK has fully left the EU it can be expected that UK VAT law changes, e.g. many EU VAT simplifications like triangulation rules and call-off stock arrangements would no longer apply.

Will tariffs apply on trade with goods between the UK and the EU?

Not before January 2021 if the Withdrawal Agreement passes since the UK would stay in the EU single market and customs union during the transitional period. Also, if a free trade agreement has not been signed before 31 December 2020 and the transitional agreement is not extended, the UK Government will introduce a temporary tariff making 87% of imported goods free of duty.

Customs & Excise Duty

The Four Freedoms of the European Union

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Our experts


Alex Altmann

Alan Pearce

Alan Pearce


Simon Sutcliffe