The UK government has published the proposed customs duty rates that will apply to imported merchandise entering the UK from third countries after the country has left the European Union (EU) under a so-called no-deal scenario. Unless recent political developments require the UK government to extend that deadline, it has been indicated that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, 2019.
For more detail on how UK politics might play out, please see our recent Brexit Legal blog post.
How and When Will This Apply?
After the UK leaves the EU, it is free to set its own customs duty rates for imports subject to its commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which set the maximum ceilings that can be applied by the UK after it becomes a full WTO member in its own right.
Today's announcement of the UK tariff regime means that, in the event of a no-deal departure, goods entering the UK from both the EU and any other of the UK's trading partners where no preferential trade arrangement is in place (e.g., the US, China, Canada, Taiwan, etc.) will be subject to these duties. The UK can set its own customs duty rates in such a scenario because, upon departure from the EU's Customs Union and Common Customs Tariff, it does not need to keep the same rates of customs duties as those applied by the EU.
An exceptional review process has also been announced, which will apply as of exit day and which will enable changes to be made to the regime if necessary. In addition, businesses and consumers will be able to provide feedback on the impact of the regime through an online submission.
The UK is intending to eliminate all customs duties for imports, from all third country trading partners, for 88% of total imports by value, according to the UK government's plan. These reductions will be applied on a "temporary basis" for a period of up to one year following their introduction. From January, the UK government will undertake a full consultation on a more permanent approach to tariffs in order to develop their independent trade policy. If necessary, duty rates could be increased for these imports in the future. However, during the period of temporary application, UK businesses will not pay customs duties on a significant portion of UK imports..
The UK will apply customs duties to certain imports from third countries in areas deemed sensitive to UK industry and which require tariff protection in the view of the UK government.
A flavor of the range of imported products that will be subject to UK customs duties and the applicable level of duty rates that will apply are set out in the table below. The full list is accessible here:
These customs duties will be payable by UK importers when the goods are declared for entry into the UK's customs territory, which, in the absence of a withdrawal agreement, will include third country imports directly into Northern Ireland.
Separately, proposed UK antidumping and antisubsidy duties will also be payable on importation into the UK, in addition to the normal duty rates mentioned above, if the merchandise is covered by a UK antidumping and/or antisubsidy order. The list of imports subject to these additional duties can be accessed here.
UK Trade in Goods out of the UK and in to the EU Single Market
In the absence of a withdrawal agreement, goods originating in the UK and exported to the EU-27 will be subject to the currently applicable duty rates applied by the EU to imports from third countries. These duty rates can be accessed here. This is because there are not yet any proposed transition measures taken by the EU in favor of the UK insofar as tariffs are concerned.
However, UK exporters will continue to benefit from some limited EU customs exemptions such as autonomous duty suspensions, if their exported goods are covered by such an exemption.
UK importers and business now have an improved level of certainty about the level of UK customs duties that will be payable in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The position the UK government has adopted reflects a delicate balance among protecting UK producers, keeping prices low for UK consumers and the UK's interests in future free trade agreements. Clearly, the elimination of customs duties on 88% of UK trade will come as a relief for many UK importers. In those areas where the UK intends to apply customs duties, the potential for additional costs to arise should be factored into future business operations and supply contracts.