Soft Brexit or hard cheese?


Argi-food exporters face uncertainty as Brexit moves closer

With Brexit just one year away, the future relationship between the UK and the Customs Union remains largely unresolved. Will customs harmony be maintained or will Irish exporters to the UK and Europe face tariffs and a host of customs formalities? Will there be delays in transiting the UK to reach the wider European markets?

A significant portion of Irish Exports to Europe are shipped on trucks that transit via the UK on the traditional land-bridge route. Post Brexit, it remains unclear how UK Customs authorities will manage this traffic. There is an alternative.

If you are a small or large exporter to Europe, Rhenus Logistics can arrange movement from all main ports in Ireland direct to European ports bypassing the UK. Regular departures from Dublin, Rosslare, Waterford and Cork connect with European Ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. We may have to plan for slightly longer transit times but maintaining supply chain certainty remains critically important. Begin your contingency planning now!

For further information please contact your local Rhenus Logistics office.

Lynda Barry / Tel +353 (0)1 429 2300 / [email protected]

About Rhenus: Turnover at the Rhenus Group tops € 4.8 billion, making it one of the leading logistics service companies with global operations. Rhenus has business locations at more than 580 locations worldwide and employs 28,000 people. The Rhenus business areas - Contract Logistics, Freight Logistics, Port Logistics and Public Transport - manage complex supply chains and provide a wealth of innovative value-added services.

For more information about this partnership click here.

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Learnings from the Ukraine FTA

It can be helpful to consider the various trade agreements currently in place with the EU when predicting which model is likeliest to be chosen when it comes to the EU-UK breakup. In this article we take a look at this in the context of the controls on the movement of goods; not the duty impact.

As the UK have decided to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, as stated by President of the European Council Donald Tusk, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) becomes the only option.

When considering the type of FTA which might apply, it is useful to refer to the slide presented by Michel Barnier to the European Council on 15 December 2017.

Picture A: Michel Barnier, European Commissioner lead negotiator, UK Red Lines chart.

Based on the UK Red Lines and the analysis above it appears that the Canada Trade Agreement (or future Japan Trade Agreement) represent the most likely models to adopt.

In this context it is now worth taking a closer look at the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) that was signed between the EU and the Republic of Ukraine, as the Republic of Ukraine is a country that shares a physical border with the EU.

This agreement formally entered into force on 1 September 2017. One important difference to note is that the Ukraine has closer links to the EU Customs Union and Single Market than the UK as the Ukraine accepts the jurisdiction of the ECJ and regulatory compliance with the EU.

The DCFTA offers the Ukraine a framework to modernise its trade relations and economic development by the opening of its markets via progressive removal of customs tariffs and quotas, and by an extensive harmonisation of laws, norms and regulations in various trade-related sectors, creating the conditions for aligning key sectors of the Ukrainian economy to EU standards.

Similar to the Canada Trade Agreement, the aim of the Ukraine Trade Agreement is to eliminate respectively 99.1% and 98.1% of duties in trade value.

Thus, duty-free tariff rate quotas have been granted to the Ukraine for cereals, pork, beef, poultry and a handful of additional products, while for others the progressive elimination by the EU of the custom duties will occur over a longer transition period (generally 10 years).

Despite all these tariff benefits however, the most significant benefit for seamless movement of goods appears to be missing. There is still a hard border between the EU and Ukraine and all the border crossing formalities continue to have to be fulfilled (such as - import and export documentation, permits and border physical checks).

Picture B: Poland and Ukraine border within Europe.

The picture above displays the border between Poland and Ukraine. This border is 529km long and has six transit border crossings available for transit movement.

When we take a closer look at the situation at this border, we see clearly that the waiting time depends on factors such as:

  • Which border crossing is taken
  • At what time the border crossing is taken
  • Direction of movement at the border (i.e. exit from the EU or entrance into the EU)

This data is detailed below:

Picture C:  Estimated waiting times to cross the border between Poland and Ukraine.

The waiting time to cross the border between Poland and Ukraine is estimated between 0 hours or up to 9 hours. It is important to note that this time excludes actual goods inspection time which may take a few extra hours.

Interestingly, times to clear customs in Poland to enter the EU are significantly lower than the time taken to exit Poland. Our next article will analyse this further.

If we compare the length of the border between Ukraine and Poland vs Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, both are very similar lengths of 529km and 499km respectively.

This begs the question:

How many border crossings will be needed in Ireland to avoid congestion?

Will an electronic border solve the problem?

Will the EU allow for an electronic border when the UK becomes a 3rd country while leaving the Single Market and Customs Union and moving more towards the Canada/Japan Model?

For further information or to arrange a meeting please contact Carol Lynch on [email protected].

For more information about this partnership click here.

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Sugar Tax 2018 – The Facts

For companies importing sugar sweetened drinks to Ireland or exporting them to the UK it is important to take account of the Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax (SSDT) which will be introduced, subject to formal approval by the European Commission, on the 1 April 2018 in Ireland.

Simultaneously in the UK, a similar tax, the Soft Drinks Industry levy, will be implemented on 6 April 2018.

The following is high level summary of the taxes and their implications in both Ireland and the United Kingdom.


The tax shall be charged at the time the sugar sweetened drink is first supplied in the State by a supplier and that supplier shall be accountable for and liable to pay the tax charged.

‘First supply’ means a product supplied in the State that had not previously been supplied in the State.

For SSDT purposes, supply in the State means a supply from one supplier established in the State to another supplier established in the State, or from a supplier established in the State to a consumer in the State. The supply must not be made to a related company.

For the tax to apply on a drink, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  • The drink must be non-alcoholic (in the UK the drink must have a maximum of 1.2% alcohol by volume)
  • The drink must have a sugar content of more than 5g per 100 millilitres
  • The drink must be a water-based and juice-based drink
  • The drink must be in a concentrated form or in ready-to-drink form

Dairy products are outside the scope of the tax as well as drinks based on soya, cereals, nuts or seeds.

Infant formula, follow-on formula, baby food, formulated food intended as a total diet replacement and dietary food used for special medical purposes are all excluded.

Pure fruit juice that does not contain added sugar are not subject to the tax due to nutritional value, vitamins and the fibre they provide.

Some exceptions will apply to small producers.


Returns and Payments

A supplier shall within one month after the end of a two months accounting period, in respect of the sugar sweetened drinks supplied in that accounting period, furnish to an officer a return in such form as the Commissioners may require showing:

  1. The quantity of ready to consume sugar sweetened drinks supplied by the supplier in that period, and
  2. The quantity of ready to consume beverages that would result from the preparation of the quantity of concentrated sugar sweetened drinks supplied by the supplier in that period.

The supplier shall pay the amount of tax due in respect of the accounting period concerned.

In the UK, when a drink becomes liable for the levy, the Supplier needs to report it to HMRC in a quarterly return and pay the levy due.

These will be fixed quarterly returns ending June, September, December and March.


Before making a supply of sugar sweetened drinks, suppliers will need to register with Revenue as a Sugar Sweetened Drinks Supplier (SSDS).

In the UK, registration is needed within 30 days of the end of the month in which a supplier first needs to report drinks subject to the tax. Registration is done via HMRC on

For further information on the sugar tax or to arrange a meeting please contact Carol Lynch on [email protected].

For more information about this partnership click here.

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Brexit Status – What Now?

We look at the key Brexit updates from this year so far and clarify in practical terms what this means for exporters.

A lot has happened in March 2018 in relation to Brexit and its impact for Irish exporters.

In summary:

  • In Theresa May’s Mansion House speech on 2 March, Mrs May confirmed, again, that the UK will leave the Customs Union and will leave the EU Single Market.
  • On 5 March Michel Barnier welcomed this as giving clarity to the way forward.
  • On 7 March President Donald Tusk stated, in the draft guidelines on the framework of the future relationship with the UK, that the result of the UK leaving the Customs Union and Single Market meant that “the only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement. I hope that it will be ambitious and advanced – and we will do our best, as we did with other partners, such as Canada recently – but anyway it will only be a trade agreement.
  • He went on to say that Our agreement will not make trade between the UK and the EU frictionless or smoother. It will make it more complicated and costly than today, for all of us. This is the essence of Brexit”
  • Finally, in Brussels on 19 March an agreement was reached for a transition period to apply which will cover the period before the new Trade Agreement.

What does the Transition Period Mean?

The UK will formally leave the EU on 29 March 2019. However, it is unlikely that a Trade Agreement will be concluded by this point. This would mean that trade between the EU and the UK would take place under WTO rules – with similar duties, tariffs and restrictions to those that currently apply to trade between the EU and USA for example.

The Transition agreement however provides for the UK to effectively remain within the Customs Union until 31 December 2020 and therefore means there will be no impact on trade during this period. Nor will duties or controls be introduced.

Is 31 December 2020 therefore now the new date for Brexit?

Yes and no.

  • Yes, in so far as if the talks between the UK and EU on the future trading relationship are successful, and all outstanding issues such as the NI Border are resolved, then yes Brexit will occur in full on 1 January 2021.
  • No in so far as, under the EU Rules “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. So March 2019 could still occur.

Where does this leave companies?

The problem for companies at this point is whether to continue to prepare for March 2019 or hold off on the basis that political discussions will be successful and no change will be required until January 2021.

This involves an element of gambling and therefore the approach being taken by most companies is to implement the minimum amount of planning to ensure that this can be utilised should things take a turn for the worse later in the year.

As the work required is the same, regardless of the time frame, this ‘no regrets policy’ is seen as the best option.

What are companies preparing for?

Based on the events during March as laid out in the first paragraph a reasonable working assumption is that post-January 2021 companies will be trading with the UK under a Free Trade Agreement similar to the agreement that currently exists with Canada.

This will allow for reduced / zero customs duties as long as goods qualify as originating and companies have origin certification to prove it.

Import and Export Declarations will be required as normal.

What’s next?

The next crunch meeting will be the June Council meeting at which there needs to be substantive movement on

  • The Border
  • The unagreed “White” and “Yellow” items of the Withdrawal Agreement
  • The future trading relationship between the two blocs

At this point the advice is, as before, to review your supply chain and identify the costs and potential duty impacts for exports to and imports from the UK.

Along with Customs the Import VAT requirements, Direct Tax and HR costs also need to be budgeted for.

We recommend adapting the following co-ordinated approach and taking advantage of the grants and funds that are available to support this.

The bloc wants to have agreed on solutions to the Irish border problem, have ironed out remaining differences in the Brexit withdrawal treaty text, and nailed down what sort of relationship the two sides are going to have after 2020. 


For further information or to arrange a meeting please contact Carol Lynch on [email protected]

For more information about this partnership click here.

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Swiss Customs Goes Paperless


The eVV Electronic files assessment decisions for Imports

IS NOW mandatory, from 1st March 2018


The eVV (Electronic files assessment decisions) is the digital Swiss customs clearance system. Following the introduction of assessment decisions in electronic format in 2008, Swiss Customs began issuing export assessment decisions exclusively in electronic form. The same will now be the case for import assessment decisions.

From 1st March 2018, Swiss Customs issue its import assessment decisions for customs and VAT exclusively in electronic format for DDP (Delivery Duty Paid) shipments. This means the Swiss importers have to organise themselves in order to be able to collect, store and archive their eVV’s Imports in time.

For further information please contact the Federal Customs Administration of Switzerland

Or your local Rhenus Logistics office - Lynda Barry / Tel +353 (0)1 429 2300 / [email protected]


About Rhenus: Turnover at the Rhenus Group tops € 4.8 billion, making it one of the leading logistics service companies with global operations. Rhenus has business locations at more than 580 locations worldwide and employs 28,000 people. The Rhenus business areas - Contract Logistics, Freight Logistics, Port Logistics and Public Transport - manage complex supply chains and provide a wealth of innovative value-added services.

For more information about this partnership click here.

Rhenus Logistics | | 0 comments

Centralized Customs Clearance in the EU for your global supply chain

Centralized Customs Clearance is a valuable trade facilitation measure under a customs procedure of the Union Customs Code (UCC) within the EU.

It allows an approved trader to lodge at the customs office where they are established, a customs declaration for goods which are presented at another customs office within the customs territory of the Union.

Centralized Clearance allows the economic operators to centralize and integrate accounting, logistics and distribution functions with financial savings in administrative and transaction costs, thus providing a genuine simplification. Centralizing payment of customs duties and related declaration costs provides real savings and efficiencies.

Multinational organisations with manufacturing or distribution centres in different EU countries can centralize their EU customs clearance administration in one location within the EU. These organisations may have to implement or purchase costly IT solutions in each member state they are importing/exporting to/from or outsource this facility to many different external stakeholders. Centralized Clearance can eliminate this costly administration burden, centralize these operations in one location, and reduce risk within your global supply chain.

As your global supply chain expands and non-EU imports increase into multiple cross county locations throughout the EU, you now should consider this very useful trade facilitation measure. Global sourcing within your industry can be complex. Making the inbound process of this function more efficient by ensuring security of supply and reducing risk should be considered.

For more information on Centralized Clearance contact Brian Murphy, Head of Trade Services at the Irish Exporters Association.

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Tariff Suspension / Quota Applications

If the product (raw material or semi-finished product) your company imports cannot be supplied in sufficient quantity in the European Union, the company can apply for Duty Suspensions or Tariff Quotas.

The duty suspensions will allow unlimited quantities to be imported into the EU for five years and tariff quotas will allow the importation of limited quantities for a period from 6 to 12 months.

There are 2 annual deadlines for applications under the Tariff suspension Scheme, one in early January and the other in July. Note that the quota/suspension does not come into effect until a year after the deadline date. For example, applications submitted by the deadline in January 2018 will not come into effect until January 2019.

To be eligible, the application must meet the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be established in the EU
  • The applicant must have had recent contacts with potential suppliers and EU manufacturers at the time of application. Note that these contacts must be documented (letters, faxes, emails) and included in the application.
  • Applicants must be using the product, or involved in significant manufacturing/processing of the product, and ensure the imported products are not covered by an exclusive trading agreement.
  • Precise product description. Note that the goods must be raw material or semi-finished products. Finished products won’t be granted suspensions/quotas. Include the CAS number if the product is a listed chemical.
  • Product(s) must be correctly classified for customs purposes. If the correct classification is in doubt, a Binding Tariff Information (BTI) application may be required.
  • Anticipated and current imports as well as the applicable duty rate at the time of request, together with estimated uncollected customs duties (duties expected to be paid in the year indicated). Note that the estimated amount must be over €15,000 per year.

Applications must also state

  • The origin of the goods.
  • If the goods are subject to a patent.
  • If the goods are subject to any anti-dumping or anti-subsidy measure.

Note that the duty suspension will apply to the tariff code rather than the applicant, therefore it is important to make the application as specific as possible to avoid competitors using the duty suspension. The other side to this is that a competitor may have applied for the suspension of a product that you are using so it is worth reviewing 1) that you are correctly classifying your product, and 2) if an autonomous duty suspension is applied to this tariff code. Having a product misclassified in this instance could lead to missing out on a valuable duty break in place.

If you wish to obtain further information on the application process for autonomous duty suspension or wish to review if your imported raw materials already have a suspension in place, please contact BDO.

For more information about our partnership with BDO Ireland click here.

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Japan – EU Trade Deal, a new market for Irish food exporters

On 8 December 2017, the EU finalised negotiations for a trade agreement with Japan. After the legal verification and translation processes which will take place in early 2018, the European Commission can then submit the agreement for the approval of the European Parliament and EU Member States.

The trade agreement with Japan will:

  • remove these barriers
  • reduce or eliminate tariffs
  • help shape global trade rules in line with high standards and shared values

The Japanese market has a population of 127m people and currently EU agri-food exports to Japan amount to around €5.7bn despite the challenges and tariffs faced.

What will it mean for Irish food exporters looking to expand to the Japanese market?

Last month the Irish Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed led a trade mission to Japan and South Korea. At the moment, Irish beef tongue is the main beef product being exported to Japan, but according to the Minister the 30t of beef tongue being exported to Japan could increase under the EU-Japan trade deal. Note that the EU have also a free trade agreement in place with South Korea which has been applied since 2011 and was formally ratified in 2015.

Some examples of the potential benefits to Irish agri-food exporters which would make their products more competitive on the Japanese market:

If you are looking to expand into new markets and wish to discuss further please contact BDO.

For more information about our partnership with BDO Ireland click here.

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Brexit: Preparing for 2018

As the Brexit negotiations continue there is increasing concern on the time period which will be available to allow companies prepare.

Time pressure is increasing as:

  • Businesses will need a year to make preparations and introduce new Customs Procedures
  • There will be a requirement for a significant increase in the number of customs officials both in the UK, Ireland and the EU
  • IT systems will need significant investment to cope with the potential ten-fold increase in the number of declarations required

This leaves companies unclear as to whether to prepare for a worst case scenario of a Hard Brexit, a best case transition period or whether to adapt a wait and see approach. The downside to the latter however is that as the months go by it leaves less and less time for the necessary work to be completed.

Also, the facts are, that when we deconstruct the meaning of a Hard versus a Soft Brexit what this really boils down to is whether there will be customs duties applied. On the basis that the UK leave the EU Customs Union and Single Market then the customs compliance requirements remain mostly the same.

The question we get asked the most at this point is whether there is anything a company can do when so little is known. While this is true to some extent, there is in fact a lot more known than unknown.

  • It is certainly still unclear whether a Trade Agreement leading to reduced /zero tariffs will be agreed. It is to be hoped an agreement will be reached, but a start on this will only be made in March 2018.
  • Less unclear however is that there will be requirements for Import and Export Declarations to be lodged with the Customs Authorities once the UK is a Third Country for Customs Purposes. This is the case with all imports and exports from non-EU countries and there is very little reason to believe that any different situation will apply to the UK. Indeed Pascal Lamy, the former EU Trade Commissioner and former head of the WTO re-iterated this when he said that “There is no ‘no border’ solution”.

If we look at what is being suggested by the UK, their most recent thinking is outlined in their Government’s White paper on Customs published in October 2017.

In summary the White Paper confirms that:

  1. Traders who trade only with the EU will now be subject to customs declarations and checks for the first time.
  2. It is necessary, in the interests of being prudent, to provide for the implementation  of an Customs, VAT and Excise regime for goods moving between the UK and EU
  3. EU Movements by sea and air will be dealt with broadly in the same way as they are dealt with currently for non-EU movements.
  4. For roll on- roll off traffic pre notifications to customs may be introduced with customs posts set back from the ports.
  5. Trusted Trader status will be critical to enable simplifications in managing customs, cost-savings in lodging declarations and avoiding delays - in particular at the N.I. Border.

-Trusted Traders may obtain simplified options in terms of lodging customs declarations i.e the monthly reporting as we have discussed.

-In addition for cross border trade the Trusted Trader arrangement would allow for aggregated returns and periodic duty payments.


This outline is therefore quite clear in stating that trade with the EU will be subject to customs requirements.

What should a company do therefore at this point to prepare for a Hard Brexit while still hoping for a soft Brexit?

We are strongly advising the following steps are undertaken:

  1. Review your supply chain and map out imports and exports to and from the UK
  2. Assess the impact of tariffs on a worst case and best case scenario
  3. Identify the level of customs awareness within the Company
  4. Assess the potential increase in the costs of customs compliance
  5. Look at applying for Trusted Trader Status

Indeed both the UK and Irish Authorities have identified the Trusted Trader Status as a means for reducing burdens for companies and a prudent company would be well advised to start preparations for this authorisation as soon as possible.

The time line between starting an application process and receiving an authorisation is on average one year which means that even allowing for a start date of January 2018 it would be unlikely that authorisation would be achieved before January 2019. If Brexit occurred in March 2019 this would leave limited time for slippage.


For further information on Brexit and all customs queries please contact BDO.

For more information about our partnership with BDO Ireland click here.

BDO Ireland | | 0 comments

Completion of Study on Freight Traffic on British Landbridge

This study, which is an important part of the Department of Transport’s work in preparing to meet the challenges of Brexit, is now underway. The work is being carried out by consultants under the management of the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) and involves a significant number of interviews with Exporters, Traders, Freight Forwarders, Hauliers, Ports and Shipping Lines.

Many IEA Member Companies are being asked to respond to the survey work. The results of the research carried out by the IEA earlier in 2017 on the subject will also be fed into the study.

All of the work, when collated, will enable the Department to make not just their own plans but will enable them to inform the EU Transport Commissioner and her team of the real Irish requirements within the Brexit discussions to minimise the disruption to the Landbridge routing.

Rhenus Logistics | | 0 comments


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