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Brexit: What happens when the grace periods end?

After UK’s announcement on plans to extend the grace periods for implementing post-Brexit border checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the EU responded with a threat of legal action

With many factors affecting the decision and things constantly changing it is still unclear when the further post-Brexit border checks come into force at the NI borders. 

However, these grace periods apply not only to Northern Ireland but also to trade from the EU to England, Scotland and Wales. 

The first phase of those border checks is due to end at the end of March and could lead to new difficulties for EU exporters and GB importers.


What Brexit border checks have been in place since January?

By officially leaving the single market on January 1st, Great Britain and the EU created a new trade customs border, which up until the next phase of border checks expiring, only affects those moving controlled goods from GB to EU. This has caused many problems for businesses, notably fish producers. At the same time, it left the EU counterparts with a competitive advantage, allowing them to benefit from a grace period. 

Northern Ireland stayed within the single market for goods and so since January 1st there is a new trade border for them with Great Britain, but not the EU. This arrangement has also been problematic and data now shows that imports from GB to NI have dropped by 65% in January as a result. 

In anticipation of such issues, though perhaps not to this extent, the government agreed with the EU that some of the new processes for food and parcels going from GB to NI would be delayed until April 1st – it has now unilaterally extended these until October 1st.


What’s coming on April 1st?

The main effects of the changes entering on April 1st relate to food products coming into GB from the EU. Products of animal origin, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy, will need to be pre-notified to the UK authorities, which requires the exporter to make a declaration on an IT system. 

Additionally, these products will also require export health certificates (EHCs) completed by a vet or other qualified person, adding the burden of higher costs and administration work. These health certificates have been one of the biggest issues for those exporting from GB to the EU, who have had to perform these since January 1st. It is expected that the same issues might arise, which is especially frustrating for those whose products are simply passing through GB on their way to France or another EU destination – those products will require pre-notification and health certification. 

What’s more is some products, such as chilled mincemeat and fresh sausages, will be banned from entering GB from the EU. 

Furthermore, if an EU-registered fishing boat catches any fish in the UK, they will only be able to do so in designated ports with re-notification at least four hours in advance.  


What changes to expect in July?

Another layer of border checks comes in with the expiration of the 3rd phase of grace periods. 

From July 1st products of animal origin will need to enter GB through designated border control posts, many of which are still under construction, where physical inspections of goods would take place. This will also be met with tighter customs controls on all goods.


What should you do to prepare for the expiry of the grace periods?

If your business relies on supplies from the EU, your supply chain may be affected. As many SMEs have found out in the last few months, with Brexit, there is no room for error – the costs of any small mistake are too high. 

Now is the best time to prepare your business for those changes. Get in touch with our friendly and professional team of experts and let us help you keep your business running smoothly!

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