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Preparing for new UK Import Controls


  • On 1 April, the UK will introduce new import controls on certain categories of EU goods, including plant and animal products. This will mean that, in addition to the necessary customs formalities, Irish exporters exporting to the UK need to have their UK importer pre-notify the UK authorities of these goods, get the appropriate Export Health Certificate(s) from the Irish authorities and move the goods together with the Export Health Certificates(s).
  • These new UK import controls will impact on exporters of all products of animal origin, including all meat, dairy, fish and composite products incorporating products of animal origin, as well as regulated plants and plant products.
  • It’s crucial that exporters fully understand these new UK import requirements and ensure everyone in the supply chain, including their UK importer(s), is clear on their roles and responsibilities and can meet them.
  • A range of Government supports are available, including training and grants, to help your business deal with these changes but you will also need to engage with your UK importer and with the UK authorities in respect of UK import controls.

EU Import/Export Controls

Since 1 January 2021, the UK has been outside the seamless trading environment of the EU Single Market and Customs Union. New customs formalities and other regulatory requirements now apply to goods imported into the EU from the UK, excluding Northern Ireland. Goods imported into the EU, including Ireland, need to be pre-notified to the relevant EU customs authorities to allow for an assessment of any controls that may need to be carried out on the goods.

Similarly, new customs formalities and other regulatory requirements apply to exports from the EU, including Ireland, to the UK, excluding Northern Ireland. No new procedures apply to goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland because of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland.

UK Import Controls

For goods exported to the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, the UK is progressively introducing new formalities on 1 January, 1 April and 1 July 2021. This approach is set out in detail in the UK Border Operating Model. Since 1 January EU exporters have been required to pre-notify exports to the UK authorities using the Good Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) or to avail of temporary storage at the point of import while import formalities are completed. Certain limited categories of plant and animal products, which the UK considers to be high risk (e.g. live animals, certain plants and germinal products), also already require pre-notification to the UK authorities by the UK importer and to move accompanied by an Export Health Certificate.

From 1 April, Irish exporters need to be aware that the UK will begin to apply documentary controls to a much wider range of products, including all plant and animal products. This means that EU operators, including Irish exporters of these categories if products will have to undertake a number of additional steps to comply with UK import controls. These controls will take place remotely and at point of destination on a risk basis.

From 1 April, in addition to the necessary EU and UK customs formalities, there will be a requirement that almost all exporters of food and agricultural produce to the UK pre-notify the UK authorities, through their UK importer, and to ensure that the products move with an Export Health Certificate issued by the Irish authorities. This includes products such as meat, dairy, fish and composite products incorporating products of animal origin, as well as regulated plants and plant products. The UK will no longer provide for the import from the EU of fresh meat preparations such as mince meat and sausages from 1 April, unless frozen. It will also require EU goods moving under transit via the UK landbridge, from Ireland to France for example, to be accompanied by a transit Health Certificate and pre-notified on the UK import control system for food products.

From 1 July, the UK will remove the facility for exporters to delay the lodgement of UK customs import declarations and to pay the applicable customs and VAT charges. The UK will also begin to carry out physical and identity controls on certain categories of plant and animal products at UK Border Control Posts.

Additional UK Government Import Requirements – 1 April 2021

From 1 April, and in addition to the EU and UK customs formalities already in place, all exports, and transit movements of qualifying products will be subject to UK documentary controls which will be carried out remotely. This includes products such as meat, dairy, fish and composite products incorporating products of animal origin, as well as regulated plants and plant products.

1. All exports of qualifying products, including plant or animal products must be pre-notified to the UK authorities using its Imports of Products, Animal, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) by the UK importer.

2. Exports of qualifying products must also be accompanied by the relevant Export Health Certificate provided by the Competent Authority in the EU Member State of origin.

3. EU goods moving under transit via the UK landbridge, from Ireland to France for example, will also be required to be accompanied by a Health Certificate and must be pre-notified on UK IPAFFS system.

4. The UK will no longer provide for the import from the EU of fresh meat preparations such as mince meat and sausages, unless frozen.

5. EU registered fishing vessels landing their catch in UK must do so at designated ports with pre-notification at least 4 hours in advance for fresh fish.

Please note that the type of health certificate required for individual categories of products may differ and therefore consignments with different products may require a number of health certificates.

For further information on how to apply for an Export Health Certificate, please contact your Competent Authority.

HSE Environmental Health Service –

UK Government Resources

The UK Government has set out its general guidance for EU businesses wishing to export goods into the UK on the following website. Additional information on the UK import certification requirements for some categories of products is provided on the following webpage. The responsible UK authority is the Animal and Plant Health Agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This webpage will be updated as further guidance is issued by the UK authorities.

The UK Customs Authorities have also provided a number of online videos to assist businesses with UK customs clearance and importing into the UK.

Irish Government Supports and Training

A range of Government supports, including advisory, upskilling and financial supports are available to assist businesses in responding to the challenges of Brexit. For further information, or to get advice, please visit the following page.

Advisory & Upskilling Supports

A number of webinars, including webinars specific to the UK Import Controls that will be introduced from 1 April, are being run by the Irish Government or by the UK Government, please visit here as well as the relevant page on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Bord Bia offers training in customs and tariffs, supply chain management, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) requirements tailored for the needs of the food and drink sector. For more information, see its Brexit Hub.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara helps to develop the Irish Seafood Industry and has further information on its Brexit Hub.

Clear Customs training delivered through Skillnet Ireland continues to be available to Irish businesses, and includes a dedicated module on import and export for the agriculture sector in which participants can enrol.

Financial Supports

A range of financial supports are also in place to assist businesses in responding to the challenges of Brexit. These supports include;

• The €100 million Capital Investment Scheme for Marketing of Agricultural Produce is a stimulus package is designed to strengthen and improve the resilience of primary food processing companies. The aim of this fund is to advance product and/or market diversification among primary food processing companies and strengthen the resilience of companies vulnerable to the external trading environment. Eligible companies are invited to submit applications from now until the closing date on Thursday 15th April, 2021.

• The Brexit Loan Scheme provides loans of €25,000 to €1.5 million to support working capital or to fund innovation, change or adaptation of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit. It offers loans with terms of up to 3 years and is open to eligible Irish businesses.

• The Microfinance Ireland Brexit Business Loan provides up to €25,000 to businesses whose turnover has fallen (or is likely to fall) by 15% or more, or where a business has a short-term cash flow need as a result of Brexit. Loans range from six months to three years.

• Enterprise Ireland also provides a range of financial supports aimed at Brexit Readiness including the Ready for Customs Grant of up to €9,000 per eligible employee hired, or deployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role. For supported businesses, Enterprise Ireland also provides the Post-Brexit Advisory Support helps businesses to create a strong action plan and recognise opportunities and risks that the new trading environment in the UK may pose to business, and the Evolve Strategic Planning Grant.

• Local Enterprise Offices also have a range of supports available, including its series of interactive online workshops to Prepare Your Business for Customs and its Brexit Mentor Programme.

For further information on these and other supports, please click here.


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