9th January 2020 as the “WAB” (Withdrawal Agreement) passed through Parliament we attended Border Formalities Round Table in Brussels and are pleased to share the highlights with you.

This group include HM Government, Border Delivery Group / Dept. for Transport / DEXU (soon to close) / HMRC and we attend as part of the Kent Steering and Freight Logistics Groups. A major move forward is that we were joined by French, Belgian and Dutch experts sharing their thoughts and concerns with the next steps to extend the dialogue to customs officials.

A look at the potential timetable:

31st January – Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
25th February – Is when we understand the EU will set out its negotiating mandate.
30th June – the last date to agree an extension. Boris Johnson has been clear he will not seek an extension and has taken away that possibility from Parliament. Watch though for wordings and dates may move according to “implantation”, “transition”, “non negotiated outcomes”. This is politics after all.
31st December – is a clear date, maybe not. Ratification is required by member states and translated into 27 languages.

Expect a lot more dates to enter the timeline but you may find us all calling it something new as the PM is keen to drop the word Brexit. Already we have seen the announcement that DEXU (Department for Exiting the EU) will close and David Frost will head Task Force Europe. DEXU colleagues advise they expect to end up in the Cabinet Office.

Things to be aware of and watch out for :

  • No Deal Planning is stood down – Transitional Simplified Procedures, Postponed VAT accounting, Operation Brock (see attached if you use Kent’s roads) are all moth balled and we do not know if they will be used again. The No Deal tariff is unlikely to survive unless another No Deal Cliff Edge emerges. You have spent a lot of time informing customers of this and that may come as a surprise for them.

  • Customs declarations will be required. It is possible that simplifications, easements or moves towards smart borders will be seen but today we must presume that a declaration is required.

  • Paperwork will be needed – a good invoice is a great place to start.

  • Roll over of existing EU Free Trade Agreements. The EU cannot write to the countries it has FTAs with until we leave the EU. It is expected that counties with an FTA will honour UK goods as EU origin but one or more may challenge this. The continuity FTAs which can be found in the Department for International Trade do not apply until after the transitional period. Dispute resolution may well be needed but there is no shape to what will look like. For instance its we have had reports of difficulties with the new EU – Japan Economic partnership Agreement.

  • Treated wooden packaging and pallets are required once we leave the EU. As the UK is not seen as a risk of infestation this may (but may not) be negotiated but this will require planning and expenditure if required.

  • Transit /T Form’s / NCTS is going to be a major issue for us (that is Davies Turner us, UK us and Europe us) to resolve. This envelops Safety & Security and in an uncertain world will need great care. HMRC are committed to look at policy but tensions remain between them and the Home office / Border Force.

  • The changeover of customs IT systems is more complex than anticipated. It’s perhaps unsurprising that when no national authorities would discuss this that it might have gone wrong for previous deadlines but member states have quoted from 2 hours in France to 10 days in Spain and 1 – 3 days in many of the member states.

  • The principal of not turning up at a port without paperwork is greater than ever. Fines or charging of VAT in the last member state are among the penalties threatened. At the very least drivers will be turned back with unwanted delays and costs.

The other major issue is Northern Ireland. There is a great deal of speculation (or self-proclaimed experts) in the media whether press or social media. The reality is that the civil service are tasked with mapping out the implications. The Border Delivery Group and HMRC contacts will link that information into our teams once there is something tangible to work with and we are hopeful of a local contact for DT Dublin.

In summary we have lots to do, it’s unclear whether time is our enemy or friend and while it’s clear you will continue to hear from it may soon be called something other than Brexit.

For additional information concerning Brexit, contact your local branch contact or dial 0330 030 1870

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