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GLUMLIT UPLANDS? Merchandise & Gear in a Post-Brexit Britain

In 2016, the population of the UK voted to leave the European Union. After years of torturous negotiation, it finally became a reality on the first day of 2021. Much ink has been spilt on both sides of the debate, but the crucial question is what has actually changed? We used to trade across the Channel and the Irish Sea with no more thought than we did popping to our local supermarket. Now anyone doing business to and from the EU is subject to a raft of new regulations, paperwork and charges the likes of which we haven’t had to think about for decades.

We reached out to a few people who deal with shifting stuff between the EU and the UK and asked them about their experiences. It’s early days yet for Brexit, and the full changes have yet to take effect, yet alone the full impact to come light, so this article is just a snapshot of how things have been since January, so if you have any experiences please post on our social media outlets.

All responses have been edited for clarity and all information was correct at time of asking.


Will has worked in customs clearance since 2008, and recently took a role as an advisor in a company specifically focused on the Brexit customs requirements and declarations. We spoke to him to fill us in on the details of getting goods in and out of the UK.

How has Brexit changed your job? There’s very little knowledge now with businesses who have only imported/exported from the EU, very few prepared and it’s causing no end of issues with paperwork leading to a lot of goods being delayed. We’re faced with 250 million additional customs entries this year as an industry, most of these need to be made in conjunction with businesses that don’t know what they’re doing which is a massive time drain. We’re hearing a lot of horror stories where agents/forwarders can’t cope with the volumes, again leading to delays and what we expect to be an awful lot of mistakes in customs declarations by newly trained staff or very under-pressure teams.

What information did you have from the British government prior to the rule changes? The information out there was actually not too bad, but the issue was we didn’t have proper test environments. Teams were hindered by working from home, but not having key software like GVMS ready for testing until 14th December was criminal. Webinars and key information was there but there was no way to get any actual experience putting it into practice.”

Aside from the current regulations, what changes are on the horizon and how do you see them?

“If the UK Government had any sense, the tightening of the EU border will be put back until Jan 2022 instead of full customs declarations being required from July 2021. A lot more staff are required and that needs to change. But this industry is stubborn - I see no major changes coming. Just the expectation that businesses/agents/forwarders should become more proficient and get to grips with what’s needed to keep the flow of trade going.”

How have the new Brexit regulations impacted on private individuals shipping goods from the EU to UK private citizens?

“The uncertainty of Brexit has left a lot of businesses not importing into the UK at all. When they do they’re putting additional charges on top in case of delays and trying to charge VAT on exports which is just all kinds of wrong. EU agents are also refusing to accept that Imports Custom Declarations into the UK can be deferred for up to six months. This is leading to delays in the shipping of goods and all additional costs are being put to the UK customer, as the EU believes Brexit is what we wanted. You may find all Export/Import costs are being passed to the UK importer, which again could throw £100 per shipment onto the cost of something. And that’s not taking Duty/Vat into account. Each Import from the EU now has an additional 20% charge - that 20% of the value of the goods, private individuals cannot reclaim VAT. Any Duty for non EU origin goods will also require Duty to be paid which is usually another 2.5% to 6%.”

As an example, if I was to have t-shirts printed in an EU country and shipped to me in the UK for me to sell, what paperwork and costs w