No transition period extension

At Friday’s meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, the UK confirmed that it will not extend the transition period. You can see more about the process for extending the transition period in our previous blog. A reminder that the Withdrawal Agreement provides that “the Joint Committee may, before 1 July 2020, adopt a single decision extending the transition period for up to 1 or 2 years.”

The immediate statement by the EU after the Joint Committee meeting said whilst it had taken note of the UK’s position it however remained open to an extension. However the matter now appears to be closed as following Monday’s High Level Meeting between the UK and the EU, the leaders released a joint statement which – whilst pledging to intensify negotiations – said the period would not be extended:

“The Parties noted the UK's decision not to request any extension to the transition period. The transition period will therefore end on 31 December 2020, in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The current UK Government was elected on a manifesto pledge not to extend the transition period and has been firm on this position both before and during the COVID 19 pandemic.

A recent House of Commons Briefing Paper looked at whether the transition period could be extended after the deadline in the Withdrawal Agreement or indeed if a new implementation phase could follow the current transition period. 

UK Government to phase in border checks on EU goods entering Great Britain

The UK Government announced on Friday that it will phase in checks on goods from the EU being brought into Great Britain. The three-stage implementation will start at the end of the transition period and finish in July 2021.

The UK Government has set out some details of this on its website saying:

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 or other approved premises on all high risk live animals and plants.

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.

 The UK Government say that this phased implementation will allow businesses more time to adapt to the measures at the border. The UK Government is also investing further money to ease the burden of these new processes on business by further developing the UK’s customs intermediary sector.

Crucially, as noted by the UK Government “This approach is for GB/EU trade. This approach does not apply to the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and GB which is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Some further detail is available on the UK Government website. A more fulsome border operating model is expected in July.

According to media reports, the EU is not planning to replicate these measures with Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovi saying “I can assure everyone that the EU will continue to fully protect the integrity of the single market and customs union as well as its financial interest”.