Customs procedures if the UK leaves the EU with no deal

Simplified customs processes for UK businesses trading with the EU in the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal.


In the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal, from 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019, many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world.

However, if you only import or export goods with Ireland across the Northern Ireland–Ireland land border, you do not need to take any of the actions set out here. Instead, you can disregard it. We will write to you again with information about the arrangements for trading with Ireland as soon as we can.

Under normal circumstances goods must be declared electronically (by submitting a customs declaration) before leaving the point of entry such as a port or airport. HMRC has to clear your goods, and you must pay any duty upfront.

There are a number of existing customs procedures that you can use to make the processes easier and give you a cash flow advantage. These are covered below.

HMRC wants to ensure that as many traders as possible have access to the right simplifications ahead of 29 March to ensure trade can keep flowing. We’ll therefore be streamlining the processes we describe in this guide to make it as quick as possible for traders to apply.

We will be publishing further information in January 2019 specifically for the importers, exporters, carriers and port operators who use roll on roll off locations. This will include new and temporary easements to support continued trade fluidity at these locations. You may want to consider the January guidance before making a decision on which procedures are relevant to you.

HMRC has written to businesses setting out 3 things they should do as part of preparing for no deal. If you have not yet had the letter in the post you can read it here. You do not need to contact HMRC directly.

Customs procedures

There are special procedures you can apply for that make trade across borders quicker, cheaper, and easier. You will have to consider whether any of these will be useful for your business and begin the application process.

Customs warehousing

A customs warehouse allows traders to suspend Customs Duty and import VAT payments whilst the goods are stored in an HMRC approved warehouse.

Once your goods leave the warehouse, you must pay the duty unless they’re exported or moved to another customs procedure.

You must apply to HMRC for authorisation to use a customs warehouse.

Temporary Admission

Temporary Admission is a customs procedure that allows you to use non-UK goods temporarily in the UK:

  • under certain conditions
  • for a specified period of time
  • with either total or partial relief from customs charges

Temporary Admission is useful if you temporarily import goods such as:

  • samples
  • professional equipment
  • items for auction, exhibition or demonstration

You cannot alter these goods while they’re in the UK. Using Temporary Admissions should mean any import duty or import VAT is suspended as long as you later remove the goods from the UK.

You must apply to HMRC for authorisation.

Inward Processing Relief

Inward Processing Relief allows you to suspend Customs Duty and import VAT on goods that you import whilst they’re being repaired or processed. You can then export the goods or enter them into another customs procedure without paying duty or VAT. If you sell your goods, you’ll need to pay customs duties and VAT.

You must apply to HMRC for authorisation.

Outward Processing Relief

Outward Processing Relief allows you to temporarily export goods from the UK for processing or repair and then claim full or partial duty relief from UK Customs Duty when you re-import them.

You must apply to HMRC for authorisation.

Authorised use

Authorised use (or end use) is a customs procedure where goods arriving in the UK may be allowed a reduced or zero rate of duty, as long as they’re put to a certain use. Goods include:

  • shipwork goods
  • aircraft and parts
  • hydrocarbon oil
  • marine propulsion engines
  • military equipment
  • fish
  • cheese
  • casein (used in the cheese industry)

This helps UK traders to be more competitive in certain trade sectors. To be eligible for authorised use relief, your products must meet defined criteria and be identified in the Trade Tariff. Find out how to use the Trade Tariff for end-use.

You must apply to HMRC for authorisation.


The Common Transit Convention (CTC) allows movement of goods under duty suspension, that is, without paying Customs Duty, until goods arrive at their final destination. This applies between EU member states and Common Transit Convention countries.

The UK is seeking to rejoin the CTC in its own right by March 2019 so UK traders will be able to use this facility. We’ll give an update on the CTC and further guidance for traders in due course.

ATA Carnets

The ATA Carnet is an international customs document that allows you to temporarily import commercial samples, professional equipment or goods going to either a trade fair or exhibition.

If you do not have an ATA Carnet you must go through each country’s customs procedures for the temporary admission of goods. The ATA Carnet simplifies those formalities because you use a single document for clearing goods through customs in countries that are part of the ATA Carnet system.

Temporary storage

A temporary storage facility is a place situated inside or outside the approved area of a sea or airport, where you can place non-UK goods in storage for 90 days before you put them into a customs procedure or export them.

Temporary storage allows you to store chargeable goods under customs supervision before you:

  • place them under a customs procedure
  • release them for free circulation
  • export them outside of the UK

To apply for temporary storage you must apply to Border Force.


You must have a customs guarantee to use a customs procedure. It’s your bank’s agreement to cover a customs debt that’s arisen (or will arise) when you use customs procedures. It’s needed because you’re not paying your customs debt straight away.

You’ll need to provide a guarantee from a bank or other financial institution before you’re authorised to use a customs procedure. You can use:

Further information

Find out how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

Published 4 December 2018