March 2019 is coming and importers and exporters need to be prepared for what lies ahead. The UK is leaving not only the EU but its Customs Union. No longer will imports into a distribution center in the EU cover sales in the UK. Companies will need to set up logistics to manage UK imports and exports and be compliant with new UK customs regulations. It is likely that a two year “standstill” or “transition” period will be agreed for the April 2019 to March 2021 period. Should the UK leave the EU without an agreed deal on trade and customs, however, the UK would be a third country vis-à-vis the EU (now typically referred to as the “EU27” denoting the 28 EU Member States minus the UK) and all imports and exports between the UK and the EU bloc would be governed by WTO rules.
According to the British Retailers Consortium, with Brexit more than 180,000 companies could be required to make customs declarations for the first time and the UK is expecting more than 200 million additional customs declarations annually. The most significant impact is feared for goods that are transported by road between the UK and the EU27 due to the lack of infrastructure at port facilities to handle queues of trucks on both sides of the Channel. The Republic of Ireland faces significant obstacles given its use of the UK as a land-bridge to the EU single market. While it is unimaginable that a solution will not be found, without an open skies agreement between the UK and the EU27, airplanes carrying everything from people to post, packages and time-sensitive goods will not be able to fly.