Because the U.K. will require its own customs laws following its exit from the European Union, the U.K. Government has issued a White Paper outlining the options for the customs policy to be pursued by the U.K. from March 2019 onwards. In the context of the ongoing withdrawal negotiations with the EU and in view of the new Customs Bill’s passage, the U.K. Government is now following through on an important commitment made in the White Paper to engage with stakeholders and receive their comments.

The U.K. Government states that it seeks to ensure that U.K.-EU trade will remain as frictionless as possible while an independent international trade policy, including customs, is established for the U.K. The White Paper thus focuses on seeking a negotiated outcome, including an interim implementation period, that would provide certainty for businesses under one of two options – either (i) a “highly streamlined customs arrangement” between the U.K. and EU that introduces customs formalities but minimizes their impact as much as possible, or (ii) a “new customs partnership” with the EU that supports U.K.-EU trade outside the customs union, but without customs processes at the border. Out of prudence, however, the White Paper also proposes options aimed at minimizing disruption for businesses in the event the U.K. and EU do not conclude a deal on the terms of exit.

The Customs Bill will empower the U.K., at least theoretically, for the first time in many decades to determine autonomously the classification, tariffs, and quotas applicable to imports into the U.K. It will also cover the manner in which the U.K. Government may amend and implement the Value Added Tax (VAT) and excise regimes, as well as the rules governing the collection and enforcement of taxes and duties owed in the context of trade.

Therefore, the opportunity to participate in current stakeholder engagement efforts coordinated by the U.K. Government in this context is an important one.