All the government's support for export and import trade so far

Tue 21 Apr 2020
Posted by: Ana Pintor
Trade News

With coronavirus affecting many firms in international trade, the Daily Update is bringing you an updated list of government measures to facilitate the continued flow of goods over borders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can also read our summary of financial support for all businesses, including the furlough scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

1. Import Duty and VAT deferments

WHAT: The government announced the lifting of import duty and VAT on medical supplies, equipment and protective garments at the start of April.

For other ‘non-essential’ sectors, HMRC extended the deadline for paying import duty and VAT on all goods for businesses with COVID-19 related cash flow issues, but businesses were asked to actively apply for this deferment before 15 April.

UPDATE: The IOE&IT continues to press government to automate deferment for import duty and VAT for all internationally trading businesses.


“We welcome the government’s actions to offer deferments on import VAT and duties but ask that these are made automatically rather than relying on businesses to apply for them.

“Automatic deferral of import VAT and duties will make a difference to many of the UKs businesses trading internationally.”

Marco Forgione, director general of the IOE&IT

Latest information

2. Customs easements

WHAT: The government is streamlining documentary requirements for applications for several easement schemes including AEO (authorised economic operator) status, inwards processing and customs warehousing.

The following criteria for applications can be varied or loosened:

  • site opening hours
  • the need for staff to complete certain functions on site that can be done remotely
  • specific areas in an approved location where customs controls must be conducted
  • reducing dwell times to allow quicker permission to progress
  • time limits for bills of discharge and throughput periods for special procedures
  • how to process goods held in temporary storage over 90 days


“The changes will not affect most businesses and may seem quite minor in comparison to some of the recent changes announced.

“The changes listed are being introduced to try and protect the staff and traders who have no option but to continue in their daily work and interventions such as these should, in our opinion, be encouraged and applauded for putting the health and safety of people ahead of bureaucracy.”

Rachel Stockton, director of special projects, IOE&IT

More information

3. Export insurance

WHAT: The government export credit agency, UK Export Finance, extended its Export Insurance Policy (EXIP), which covers up to 95% of the value of an export contract. The scheme usually applies for countries which commercial credit providers do no cover.

To help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, this policy can now cover transactions with first-world nations including Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.


“In essence UK Export Finance will now insure exports to a wider range of countries than was previously available, including insurance support for exports to the European Union and what are termed other ‘high performing countries.

“This is a significant development and will support UK exporters in these difficult times when trading with over 180 countries.”

Kevin Shakespeare, director of stakeholder engagement, IOE&IT

More information

4. Export controls and licences

WHAT: The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) is allowing for electronic documents and e-signatures in licence applications during the pandemic.

The response time for complying with requests for further information (RFIs) has also been increased. 


 “We are pleased that, although the ECJU itself is facing difficult times like the rest of us, they are responding to the needs of exporters by ensuring export licensing continues and by introducing interim measures such as accepting electronic signatures and pdf versions of end user undertakings and stockist undertakings.

“Despite the necessary changes to ECJU compliance checks, exporting organisations should continue to maintain their export records in good order so that whenever and however their compliance checks take place they run smoothly and successfully.”

Roger Arthey, Chair of the IOE&IT Export Control Profession

More information