Don't get caught in the post-Brexit customs net

25 September 2020

Scotland’s Food and Drink sector is vitally important to the Scottish Economy. Consistently Food and Drink is Scotland’s top export sector, latest HM Revenue and Customs statistics shows that, for 2018, food and drink exports totalled £6.3bn. Of this, £2.3bn were to the EU. 

With the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 being less than 4 months away, the borderless trade within the EU single market disappears and additional financial and administrative burdens will be incurred by UK export businesses. 

This is particularly true in the Food and Drink sector with additional reporting and controls in place for many products.   The UK Government released its guidance on the post Brexit processes in July 2020 in their 206 page “The Border with the European Union” document. 

We have prepared a summary of HMRC’s document and this can be found here. 

After whisky, with an export value of almost £1bn in 2017, seafood is the second most important export product for the Scottish food and drink industry.  Scotland exports the vast majority of the seafood it produces whilst simultaneously importing the majority of seafood it consumes.  This trading pattern means that the dilemma for the Scottish seafood industry is particularly stark and the new rules from 1 January 2021 will impact more severely on the industry.   

The additional measures required for cross-border seafood movements are outlined below:

Exports of Fish and Fishery products 

All fish, shellfish and their products being exported from GB to EU will be subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) EU import controls. With the exception of certain direct landings of fish into the EU, this includes the requirement for Export Health Certificates (EHC), import pre-notifications and entry via a Border Control Post (BCP).  

Exporters in the rest of the UK can apply for their health certificates via the Export Health Certificates Online (EHC Online) system; however, the arrangements for Scottish exporters has not yet been confirmed.  The original EHC must be physically presented at the BCP on arrival in the EU. 

The exception to the above is direct landings of fresh (or primary processed) fish. A UK registered fishing vessel wishing to land its catch directly into a designated EU port must give 4hrs notice to the relevant EU authority, submit a prior notification document, a pre-landing document and a Catch Certificate. 

Imports of Fish and Shellfish 

From January 2021, fish and shellfish and their products originating from the EU will be subject to new SPS import controls.  In addition, most imports of marine-caught fish and some shellfish will need to be accompanied by a Catch Certificate.  Non-marine-caught fish (e.g. farmed fish or shellfish, freshwater fish) and certain exempt marine species (e.g. mussels, cockles, oysters, scallops, fish fry or larvae) are not subject to Catch Certificate requirements. 

For live fish, new import controls will apply from 1 January, including advance notice of the arrival and being accompanied by an Export Health Certificate issued by the relevant authority in the EU country of origin.   The new SPS controls will not be required until 1 April 2021 for fish and shellfish imported as animal products.  From 1 July 2021, Imports of fish as animal products and live animals will need to enter GB via a Point of Entry (PoE) with a suitable BCP in order for the goods to be available for documentary, identity and physical checks. 

There is an exemption to this requirement for marine caught fish.  EU registered fishing vessels will need to give 4 hours notice of landing to the UK Authorities which may only be made at designated ports under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission Protocol.  A pre-landing document and Catch Certificate will need to be submitted prior to landing 

How can AAB help? 

AAB’s indirect tax team are able to assist businesses to understand the new requirements.  

If you require further information or support on your post 1 January 2021 customs and VAT obligations, please contact Alistair Duncan, Indirect Tax Director, or your usual AAB contact.     

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