EU transition support

The UK has left the EU and new rules for business with the EU start on 1 January 2021. You must act now to prepare for the changes ahead. The transition period will end on 31 December 2020.


Are you ready for the new rules on exports, tariffs, hiring, imports and data?

Last updated 25 November 2020.

There are less than 40 days to go until the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union. You will have to make some changes to ensure the continued flow of people, data, goods and services between the UK and the EU from 1 January.

What actions can I take now?

  • If you sell goods to the EU, you must prepare for new customs procedures.
  • If you travel to the EU for work purposes, you will need to check if you need a visa or work permit and apply if necessary.
  • If you employ overseas nationals, you will need to prepare your business for the implementation of the new immigration system.
  • If you receive personal data from contacts in the EEA, you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow at the end of the transition period.
  • If you provide services in the EU, you must ensure that your qualifications are recognised by EU regulations, to be able to practice or service clients in the EU. 

Find out more about the actions you may need to take on Use the transition checker tool for a personalised list of actions.

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Will I be able to hire EU nationals in the future, and under what conditions?

  • Yes - but the way you hire from the EU is changing. Free movement is ending, and the UK is introducing a new points-based immigration system.
  • From 1 January 2021, if you want to hire anyone from outside the UK you must be a Home Office licenced sponsor. This includes recruiting people from the EU.
  • Anyone coming to the UK to work will need a job offer from a licenced sponsor in advance and will need to meet specific skills and salary criteria.

How can my company continue to trade cross-border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

  • As set out in the Command Paper on 20 May, the Government is committed to working closely with businesses as the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented
  • This is reflected in the commitments Government has made: to unfettered access to the whole UK market; to no tariffs on goods remaining in the UK’s customs territory; to NI benefiting in full from the UK’s FTAs with third countries; and to streamline the processes under the Protocol to the maximum extent - to ensure there is no new customs infrastructure.
  • A new Trader Support Service provides an end-to-end service which will guide traders through all import processes at no additional cost. This is a unique intervention, backed by £200m in Government funding, ensuring that businesses of all sizes can draw on the support it provides.

Information for businesses that trade with the EU

A guide to how the border with the European Union will work after the transition period

Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, and following the announcement in February that the UK Government will implement full border controls on imports coming into GB from the EU, the UK Government has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021. This approach will give industry extra time to make necessary arrangements. The stages are:

  • From January 2021 

    Traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination on all high-risk live animals and a proportion of low-risk live animals.
  • From April 2021

    All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
  • From July 2021 

    Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.

Further details can be found in the Border Operating Model.

Prepare for new processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU

  • Decide how you’re going to make customs declarations
    Customs agents, freight forwarders and express operators can help you with declarations and ensure you’re providing the necessary information. Learn more.
  • Sign up for the new Trader Support Service, if you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland or bring goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK
    The free Trader Support Service (TSS) will handle the new processes arising under the Northern Ireland Protocol for you from 1 January 2021. Register your interest in using this service. Further information about the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be available soon. Please note TSS is not available for goods moved between Great Britain and the EU.
  • Delay your declarations and duty payments You may be eligible for this if your goods are not on the controlled goods list and you do not have a poor compliance record. Learn more.
  • See if your imported goods are eligible for staged controls
    Most traders with a good compliance record will be able to defer import declarations on most goods for up to six months after 1 January 2021. Learn more.
  • Make sure you have a GB EORI
    You should already have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. You will need this to complete customs declarations. If you do not yet have one, you can register for free.
  • Decide how you will account for import VAT when you make a customs declaration
    From 1 January 2021, businesses will be able to use postponed VAT accounting to account for import VAT on their VAT Return for goods imported from anywhere in the world. Learn more.
  • Check if Import VAT is due at the border
    Import VAT will not be due at the border if goods in a consignment do not exceed £135 in value. The only exceptions will be excise goods and gifts. Learn more.
  • Check the Controlled goods list to see if you need to complete declarations from January. If your goods are not on the list, you can choose to delay import declarations until July 2021
    Check if your imported goods are on the Controlled goods list.
  • Check the government’s tariff tables and consider how your trade will be affected
    From 1 January 2021, there will be new rates of Customs Duty for imports - called the UK Global Tariff. Check the tariffs that will apply to goods you import

EU transition guidance

EU (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks report

The seventh European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks statutory report details the progress on the development of common frameworks. These frameworks will help facilitate the flow of trade between different parts of the UK whilst allowing the UK to fulfil its international obligations; they will help the UK to safeguard our common resources and enable the functioning of the UK’s internal market.

Guidance for business sectors

A series of sector-specific checklists are available for businesses to use to help prepare for 1 January 2021.

Electronics and machinery: View the 9-point checklist here

Creative industries: View the 6-point checklist here

Science, research and innovation: View the 8-point checklist here

Life sciences: View the 12-point checklist here

Consumer goods sector: View the 13-point checklist here

Automotive: View the 10-point checklist here

Aerospace: View the 9-point checklist here.

Construction: View the 11-point checklist here

Arts, heritage and culture: View the 7-point checklist here

Telecoms and information services:  View the 6-point checklist here

Tourism sector: View the 6-point checklist here

Gambling sector: View the 5-point checklist here

Civil society: View the 4-point checklist here

Digital, technology and computer services: View guidance here

Sports and recreation sector: View guidance here.  

Art Market: View guidance here

Media and broadcasting: View guidance here

Reasonable Worst Case Scenario

As part of preparations, the Government has published the Reasonable Worst Case Scenario for potential disruption to freight travelling between Great Britain and the European Union at the end of the transition period.

Find out more

Hiring from the EU

The way you hire from the EU is changing. From 1 January 2021, you will need to register as a licensed sponsor to hire eligible people from outside the UK.

Free movement is ending, and the new points-based immigration system will introduce job, salary and language requirements that will change the way you hire from the EU.

You’ll need a sponsor licence to hire most eligible employees from outside the UK. This does not apply to Irish citizens. Some immigration routes, such as Global Talent, are ‘unsponsored’. You don’t need a licence to hire employees with an unsponsored visa. Find out more.

£50 million to support businesses

To support businesses with the new processes taking effect next year, the UK Government has developed a new £50 million package to boost the capacity of customs intermediaries – including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators – providing businesses with further support. This funding will support intermediaries with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to help handle customs declarations. Applications for the new funding will be open from July and HMRC will unveil more details in due course. Rules will also be changed to remove barriers for intermediaries taking on new clients.

Additionally, the UK Government have committed to building new border facilities in Great Britain for carrying out required checks, such as customs compliance, transit, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks, as well as providing targeted support to ports to build new infrastructure. We are consulting with ports across the UK to agree on what infrastructure is required. Find out more.

Existing UK trade agreements with non-EU countries

Information on the trade agreements the UK has already signed and our discussions with countries the EU has a trade agreement with has been updated.

List of customs agents and fast parcel operators

Updated with additional customs agents and fast parcel operators who can help submit customs declarations from 1 January 2021.

Financial services legislation under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Updated with Trade Repository Registration Arrangements under the UK Securities Financing Transactions Regulation document. HM Treasury’s programme of secondary legislation to ensure that the UK continues to have a functioning financial services regulatory regime in all scenarios when the UK leaves the EU.