Date: 07.01.2021

Dover braces

Since the end of the Brexit transition period on New Year’s Eve, new customs paperwork is required for lorry drivers, that is in addition to the recent requirements imposed by France to have a negative Covid test result. However, so far things appear to have been running fairly smoothly at the Channel ports.

The amount of freight Ro/Ro and Eurotunnel traffic has dropped quite sharply since New Year’s Eve and is currently about 60% below normal levels, though Brexit stockpiling will be a contributory factor in this shortfall.

Lower volumes means very few lorries were being directed into the new Inland Border Facility near Ashford, but there are worries that as freight traffic picks up over the next few weeks, there could be problems. 

Not an issue for our shippers, but for shippers without a forwarder partner there really is a huge shortage of customs agents and whilst this might not be visible just yet, it will become obvious, as there is massive pressure on getting export documentation right first time. We understand that French authorities have already started to send vehicles back for not having the correct documentation.

Without a forwarder partner like Metro, it’s critical that shippers understand what their hauliers need to have in place before they try to enter Kent, so they’re Border Ready when they get to the Eurotunnel or Dover. Which is why the government’s publishing of more than 300 pages of updated advice on the new trade border with the EU, just hours before it came into force, has led leading business groups to plead for leniency in enforcement in the coming months.

The eleventh-hour document published on New Year’s Eve included 70 pages of case histories and complex flow diagrams explaining the new trade processes required to export goods to Europe.

The forwarding industry and hauliers have repeatedly requested clarity from the government over new processes which came into force on Friday, adding over 200 million customs declarations a year. 

The late release of critical advice is unwelcome in a sector that needs to plan operations and not leave anything to the very last minute.

The combination of pre-Christmas stockpiling and some operators staying off the roads until new processes have settled down is expected to minimise immediate problems at the Channel, but the risk of disruption in the first three months of 2021, as businesses adjust, remains.

The document sets out in immense detail the new processes that will be required to move goods across the border, which will now include customs forms, export health certificates for animal and plant products and a host of other regulatory documentation.

To ensure goods are safely received, the company will need an EU EORI number from the importing member state, and for animal products, a Common Health Entry Document and an entry into TRACES, the EU certifying system.

At the same time the haulier will need to have completed an Entry Summary Declaration in order to pre-declare the inbound consignment with EU customs and must apply for a Kent Access Permit to travel to the Channel ports. Drivers are notified during the crossing if they must stop for inspection on arrival.

Goods coming from the EU will be subject to controls phased in over a six-month period as part of a unilateral UK measure to try to maintain the flow of traffic and give businesses time to adjust. 

British exporters of food and drink products will be particularly hard hit by the new rules, but manufacturers will also need to comply with a long list of new requirements in order to demonstrate that their products comply with EU rules and are sufficiently UK-made to qualify for zero-tariff entry into the bloc’s single market.

Despite pleas from business group leaders for the deal to include grace periods, the new rules will come into force immediately on the EU side, leading to calls for a flexible approach from the enforcement authorities on both sides of the channel.

Metro has dedicated significant resource and capability over the last two years, to ensure that our customers’s European supply chains continue to operate unheeded, following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Our bespoke technology and dedicated European brokerage team of 28 colleagues – in the UK and overseas – process the vast new volumes of required declarations, to  maintain efficient import and export operations, while maximising the cashflow benefits of HMRC’s ‘light-touch’ regimes.

Metro’s innovative Customs Documentation Service – CUDOS – provides a simple way to submit import and export customs declarations, with machine learning capabilities that accurately process commercial invoices without the need to re-enter data manually.