There will be immediate rule changes for the transport of goods into the EU, regardless of any Free Trade Agreement. Further changes will be implemented more gradually until at least July 2025.
Without proper preparation, the introduction of these new rules has significant potential to cause delay and disruption, especially at Channel crossings. The UK has announced contingency plans to control traffic flows into Kent and other measures aimed at ensuring that all necessary documentation is completed before journeys commence.
This is currently uncertain.
Market access for logistics businesses forms part of trade negotiations under way at the time of writing (September 2020).
If broad market access cannot be agreed, then some logistics activities may be prohibited or, at least, become more difficult. This may impact operating costs and supply chain organisation.
For example, cabotage (provision of transport services in a foreign country, eg: back-hauling) and cross-trade (movement of goods between two foreign countries) may be blocked without a comprehensive trade deal.
Without a full deal, international hauliers will need to fall back upon the ECMT scheme, but this is very limited and the number of permits available is subject to quotas.
Logistics businesses and their clients should take note of how trade talks develop and the precise wording of any agreement that emerges.
From July 2021, vehicles carrying certain products from the EU to the UK will need to enter the UK at specified Border Control Posts (BCPs – previously called Border Inspection Posts or BIPs), which are equipped to make physical checks.
Products affected include: animal products, fish and fish products, plants and plant products and some animal feeds. Many grocery industry vehicle movements will therefore be affected.
Importers will need to inform the relevant BCP in advance of the arrival of each shipment.
A statutory instrument passed in 2019 controls the routes which may be used by goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes as they leave the UK via Channel ports. Local roads will be effectively “off limits”.
Operation Brock is the UK government’s plan for managing traffic problems in Kent which may arise from border disruption as a result of EU Exit.
Brock has been subject to several revisions and will no doubt continue to be fine-tuned in response to operational learnings or the political / governmental situation.
Brock may be activated in one of four variants (or “phases”), according to the level of disruption encountered.
Key elements of Brock include:
- Acquisition of several off-road sites, where incoming and outgoing vehicles may be held and border procedures completed
- Use of the Kent Access Permit – only vehicles deemed “border ready” will be allowed to approach Channel Ports from the UK side
- Dynamic road management, diverting HGVs onto specific routes and possibly using a “zipper” machine to reorganise lanes on the M20
The best way for businesses to prepare for Brock is to be “border ready”, reducing the risk of delays and reducing the likelihood of being turned away by officials.
The UK government’s Border Operating Model provides guidance on this – where multiple consignments are carried by a single incoming vehicle, all consignments must comply with all border requirements before the vehicle may enter the UK.
Hauliers and traders must therefore work together to ensure that all consignments sharing a vehicle are border ready, because all may be blocked if one is not.
Possibly, for certain loads in certain situations.
The plans laid out by the UK government will naturally prioritise those that are considered border-ready (ie: in possession of all documents and permissions needed to enter the EU).
Limited prioritisation may be available for certain loads – specifically fresh seafood and some live animals – if there are long delays, but otherwise food and drink are not expected to receive special treatment.
These priority loads will still need to demonstrate high border-readiness. Priority traffic is expected to amount to a very small number of loads per day.
The UK government states in the Border Operating Model that the ATA scheme will be available for goods movements between the UK and EU from January 2021.
An ATA Carnet (ATA: admission temporaire/temporary admission) is an international customs document that can be used by both private travelers and businesses.
It allows specified goods to be imported temporarily, without the usual customs payments and paperwork (for example, stands and product samples to be used at a trade show, then removed).
Note that not all countries make use of the ATA scheme (currently, about 70 countries do). Also, not all will accept the same goods under the ATA system.
ATA Carnets can be obtained electronically from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Common Transit Convention (CTC) may be helpful here.
This is a 1987 treaty which facilitates movement of goods across borders. The UK will remain in the CTC after EU Exit is complete (other members are the EU, EFTA, Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia).
The CTC allows for the movement of:
- Non-EU goods through EU countries, with tariffs payable at the final destination only
- EU goods through non-EU countries, to other EU countries, with no tariffs paid
The latter is most applicable to use of GB as a land bridge.
Complications may arise where a load is split over several destinations (eg: single truck from EU delivering to Ireland and NI).
There may also be issues where goods are produced and transported with no destination specified (eg: goods made speculatively to fill anticipated orders).
From 01 January 2021, all wooden pallets and other wooden packaging material (eg: crates) brought to the UK from the EU will need to comply with the ISPM15 standard.
The same will apply to traffic leaving the UK for the EU and for traffic between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
ISPM15 standard is intended to prevent the spread of insects and pests via wood. To comply, wood must be heat-treated and marked with a special stamp. Treatment must be repeated after each repair.
From the end of the EU Exit implementation period, the UK and the EU will become separate regulatory territories and requirements will therefore change from January 2021 (in EU terms, the UK will become a “third country”).
For some businesses this will be a new requirement. Wood circulating only within the EU is not subject to ISPM15 and therefore many pallets currently in use are non-compliant.
The Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) warned in July 2020 that stocks of treated pallets may initially be insufficient.
TIMCON is working with a number of other organisations to build supply and to understand what approach EU countries might take to managing pallet-challenges.
Speak to your pallet provider or pallet pool operator for advice.
Source: IGD and Timcon, September 2020
The whole Island of Ireland is treated as a single unit for purposes of bio-security.
Agri-food goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland are therefore subject to sanitary / phyto-sanitary safety measures and checks.
Since untreated pallets carry biological risk, they are affected by this.
To be certain of compliance, all pallets crossing the Irish Sea should be ISPM15 compliant.
Source: IGD and Timcon, September 2020
In the UK, it is the duty of traders (or their agents) to ensure that vehicle drivers have the right documents and permissions to cross the UK border.
However, it is the duty of the driver to ensure that they are able to present documents when they are requested by officials.
The UK government plan is that queues should not develop, at least on the UK side of the border.
The UK government has secured sites close to the Channel crossings where incoming and outgoing goods traffic will be held for processing.
Basic welfare facilities (eg: toilets) will be provided. There will also be facilities for “remediation” – meaning the acquisition of any missing documents needed to allow vehicles to proceed.
Hopefully, most vehicles will not be held for long – the new facilities are intended for processing, not for parking.
It is not clear at this point what measures are being taken at the EU side of the border.
They may be turned away from the border and / or fined (possibly as much as £300, levied on the driver personally).
The UK government is developing a new app called ‘Check an HGV is ready to cross the border’. When complete, drivers will be able to load this onto a phone, in several languages.
The app will provide guidance on the documents needed for each load, allowing drivers to confirm that the documents are present (although the quality of documents will not be checked).
As the presence of documents is confirmed, the driver will be given a “red, amber or green” border-readiness rating.
In the case of the English Channel crossings in Kent, drivers will need to prove that they have high border readiness, before being issued a Kent Access Permit (with a life of 24 hours).
Approaching the border without a permit will be an offence and drivers may be subject to fines. Fraudulently claiming to have documents in order to obtain a KAP will also be an offence.
‘Check an HGV is ready to cross the border’ will be supplemented by a range of other support services such as advice points at motorway service stations.
Note that, in addition to penalties levied on drivers, any cargo not accompanied by the right documents may also be subject to delays or seizure.
The ‘Check an HGV is ready to cross the border’ system is expected to be ready for limited “Beta” testing in October 2020. The government has offered reassurance that a useable version will be available to user by December 2020 (exact date is t.b.c).
This reassurance has helped to address concerns that the software would not be ready for the end of the Transition Period. Even so, this will leave little time for users to familiarise themselves with the new software before use becomes compulsory no more than one month later.
Government has planned a programme of direct outreach and engagement with hauliers and haulage managers that will continue through to the end of the transition period and beyond. As part of this HMG plan to operate a web service and open Information and Advice Sites at
45+ locations from 2 November which will remain operational until March 2021, initially providing information on new processes like the “Check an HGV is Ready to
Cross the Border” Service and from the new year also delivering advisory ‘border readiness’ checks and other support to help hauliers who are unclear about the steps
to take before they proceed to ports. See section 4.1.7 in the Border Operating Manual.
Advice sites will be located at Motorway Service Stations and Truck Stops across
Businesses may need to invest in ensuring that all individuals have access to the software and are able to use it properly – especially drivers heading for Channel ports.
It is expected that ‘Check an HGV is ready to cross the border’ will be compulsory for vehicles approaching the Channel ports in Kent, but advisory for other ports.
In addition to documents covering their vehicles and their loads, drivers of goods vehicles will require at least the following
- A Certificate Of Professional Competence (CPC)
- An International Driver Permit (IDP)
- A UK driving licence
- A passport, with at least six months life remaining
- Documents and equipment needed to comply with limits on driving hours
See here for further guidance
Health insurance is also advised.
Other Transport Issues
Goods vehicles making local deliveries in the areas around the UK channel ports will be issued with Local Haulier Permits by Kent County Council.
These will exclude them from the special measures applied to other goods traffic. Note, however, that local goods businesses would not benefit from this if they intend to cross the Channel.
Hauliers are advised to obtain EORI numbers in both the EU and the UK.
The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) is used to access various border control systems. Both traders and hauliers should have them.
It is expected that EU authorities will enforce all the usual border controls on traffic arriving from the UK from January 2021 onwards – this contrasts with to the approach taken by the UK, which will introduce measures in stages over six months.
The experience of traders and hauliers will depend heavily on the policy of border officials, which may be either pragmatic and flexible or dogmatic and strict. At this point is difficult to predict
In addition to the driver’s personal documents and any documents relevant to the load, goods vehicles crossing the border between the UK and EU will need at least the following
- Vehicle registration documents
- Vehicle insurance documents for tractors and trailers
- Goods vehicle operator license
- Possibly other documents subject to trade deal (eg: cabotage license)
- “GB” sticker or European number plates
- MOT certificates
- Trailers must be registered for international use (except trips from the UK to Ireland)
Port of Dover: doverport.co.uk/port/about/brexit-be-prepared
Eurostar latest service information: twitter.com/eurostaruk
Portsmouth International Port: portsmouth-port.co.uk/news/exiting-the-eu