Brexit and Borders

As we move into the negotiation and “divorce” phase of Brexit the main questions being asked by Irish Exporters are

Will there be additional tariffs to consider

Will there be border controls on trade with the UK

While nothing is known with certainty, particularly in relation to tariffs, there are at this point some extremely likely outcomes which businesses need to start preparing for.

Tariff and Duty Costs

The question on the introduction or not of tariffs is probably the most “known unknown”. The answer will depend on whether, or not, there is some form of (Free) Trade Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK. This it-self will only be known after the conclusion of, or at least positive developments in the “Divorce Negotiations”.

At a high level there are two possible outcomes:

A Free Trade Agreement is concluded which allows for a 0% duty rate on trade between the EU and UK.
If this is concluded Exporters still need to be aware of two potential complications
i) Most FTAs require companies to prove their goods are “originating” in order to benefit from the preferential duty rate. This in itself can be a complex process.
ii) Most FTAs do not cover agricultural products or restrict the benefits for agricultural products. While this may be unlikely for an EU-UK Trade agreement it still needs to be considered.

No FTA type agreement is reached and Tariffs are imposed.
In this case the tariff on import into Ireland/ the EU will be the duty rate currently applied by the EU. The tariff on import into the UK will be set independently by the UK Government. This could range from 0% to EU tariff rates to WTO bound rates.

A prudent approach therefore is to assess the impact of EU/WTO rates in looking at the potential additional duty cost that might arise on imports into the UK; and assess the impact of the current EU rates on imports into Ireland from the UK.

 

Borders

The key question at present, possibly more than tariffs, is whether there will be border controls introduced. This tends to break down into two aspects

Will there be border controls, and the requirement for Export and Import Declarations, at the Sea Ports and Airports?

Will there be border controls, and the requirement for Export and Import Declarations, at the North-South Border?

The unfortunate answer is that it is extremely difficult to see a situation where, under current EU legislation, there are no border controls.

We do have to look however at what this means.

Firstly will there be a requirement to lodge Export and Import declarations (SADs in Ireland/C88 in the UK)? It is almost impossible to see a situation where this will not be a requirement once the UK is a non-EU Country.

What does this mean?

Customs Declarations require 54 boxes of information to be supplied to Revenue, from details of the consignor/consignee to customs value to tariff classification to weights. Probably the most complex part of this is the requirement to provide the tariff classification.

These Export and Import Declarations need to be lodged with Customs, electronically, prior to export/import. Most goods will obtain instant clearance (95%) but some goods will require further checks before being allowed to clear. In all cases however these Declarations can be subject to post-clearance audit any time within the next three years.

It is important to remember that the lodging of Export and Import Declarations is no different to lodging any Tax Declaration and therefore the information supplied to Customs needs to be 100% accurate and correct or you may be subject to additional duty costs, fines and penalties (As with any Tax Audit).

The next concern is the type of border controls which might be introduced by Customs. At this point this is not 100% clear but ideally, will involve the use of electronic systems to minimise delays. As we know from many of the recent news reports this is a critical aspect for Revenue at present.

What next?

At this point most companies impacted by trading in the UK are looking at reviewing their supply chains and assessing the impact of additional tariff and non-tariff barriers on their businesses.

This modelling can be done using many resources. Enterprise Ireland, for example recently launched the ‘Brexit SME Scorecard’, a new interactive online platform which can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit under six business pillars. Based on answers supplied by the user, the Scorecard generates an immediate report which contains suggested actions and resources, and information on events for companies to attend, to prepare for Brexit. The platform can be accessed at www.prepareforbrexit.ie

We would therefore recommend that companies pro-actively engage in completing this type of analysis and increase their knowledge of Customs.  This is particularly important for those companies who sell only within Europe, and have a significant portion of sales in the UK,  as this may be their first interaction with the Customs Authorities.

 

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