Government to help fast-track imports and exports to support UK trade

Wed 1 Apr 2020
Posted by: Ana Pintor
Trade News

The government has today unveiled temporary ‘customs easements’ to assist UK international trade during the coronavirus outbreak.

The easement applies to all industry sectors, but with priority given to food, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

The move comes as figures released this morning show a contraction in UK manufacturing in March, blamed on supply lines disruption caused by COVID-19. Last month, output and new orders in the sector fell at their fastest rate since 2012.

Customs streamlining

Customs authorities will, in normal circumstances, help businesses streamline their documentary requirements.

Such measures include awarding AEO (authorised economic operator) status and facilitating such procedures as inward processing or customs warehousing.

Now, however, the government has announced further easing of red tape around customs to help ease supply chain blockage.

Importers and exporters can vary the following conditions around gaining customs approvals:

  • 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

Rather than applying via post as customary, companies can apply to change the above by emailing their supervising officer with the subject ‘COVID-19 customs easement request’.

You can find more information about the government’s announcement here.

Food, medical and pharmaceutical supplies “will be given priority during this period and fast-tracked wherever possible,” the government announced this morning.

‘Use special procedures’ call

Director of stakeholder engagement for the IOE&IT, Kevin Shakespeare, described the measures as “important” for exporters and importers in the UK.

Shakespeare advised companies not using special procedures as listed above to consider doing so.

“Some of these points apply for businesses using what we call ‘customs special procedures’ such as transit, warehousing and inward processing. If your company is not using these procedures, then now is the time to consider doing so.”

Shakespeare added that the Institute of Export provides international trade surgeries “where you can discuss how to benefit from these and the best means of application”.

The government announcement comes as key industry survey, the IHS Markit/CIPS final manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, fell to 47.8 - a three-month low and down from 51.7 in February.

Lower value consignments

In measures to boost inter-company trade in the EU, the government also announced:

  • Consignments valued less than €3000 can be declared for export in the UK, even if the exporter is established in another EU state
  • The New Computerised Transit System will now accept increased journey times of up to 14 days, and the expected duration can now include anticipated delays
  • Acceptance of estimated calculations for supplementary customs declarations

More information about these new measures can be found here.