Bolli e documenti per spedizioni nel Regno Unito


The Aftermath of Brexit: How Has Shipping Changed?

More than a year after Brexit, let’s analyse the situation of shipments and see which documents are necessary and which requirements must be met to avoid running into delays in deliveries and fines.

The entry into force of Brexit, which took place on 1st January 2021, officially sanctioned the UK's exit from the Customs Union and the European Single Market. This has led to a change in trade relations between countries belonging to the United Kingdom and those located within the European Union, since the transfer of goods has become an import and/or export of goods. Consequently, shipments are no longer considered community but international, therefore it is necessary to fill in some customs documents due to the tariffs imposed on exports and the entry controls carried out by individual states. In fact, although within the European Single Market shipments can be delivered directly to the indicated address, international shipments must first be processed by customs.

In practice, shipments of products to and from the United Kingdom have therefore suffered an increase in costs due to various factors such as customs duties, duties on imports or exports and the VAT applied on goods, to which also the exchange of currency from pounds to euros is added (that, however, was present even before). In addition, due to the control of the HS codes (codes that indicate the product category) and the customs documents mentioned in the previous paragraph (and that we will explore further on), the delivery times have also been extended.

Fortunately, an exclusive agreement signed between the United Kingdom and the Member States of the European Union allows, under certain conditions, to avoid tariffs on the goods to be exported, although it is still required to provide all the necessary documentation and it is possible to also incur in some customs duties. Let's see what this agreement specifically consists of.


The Trade and Cooperation Agreement stipulated between the European Union and the United Kingdom defines the requirements for the facilitations in the field of trade in goods and services, digital trade, intellectual property, public procurement, aviation and road transport, energy, fisheries, coordination of social security systems, cooperation of law enforcement and judicial authorities in criminal matters, thematic cooperation and participation in the EU programmes.

Signed on December 30th, 2020, it definitively entered into force on May 1st, 2021. Specifically, as regards commercial exchanges, this agreement ensures the absence of tariffs on goods that comply with specific rules of origin and guarantees the seamless connectivity by air, road, rail and sea. However, this should not be misinterpreted: even if what is called a "Tariff 0" is applied (therefore the EU will not apply additional customs tariffs), duties and VAT will still be applied to all goods to and from the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, the TCA requires both EU Member States and the United Kingdom to recognise the status of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) and Approved Exporter who is able to self-certify the conformity of certain goods, such as products for the automotive sector, wine and organic, pharmaceutical and chemical products.

These rules, however, change depending on whether you are importing or exporting products to the UK. So, let’s delve deeper into this matter.

Imports to the UK

As for goods produced within the European Union, the trade agreement allows for the simplification of customs procedures and eliminates additional tariffs. However, there will still be costs to be faced, such as VAT for eCommerce, which will be calculated based on the value of the goods, shipping costs and will also depend on the sales channel.

This tax must be paid by the seller, who will then need a UK VAT number, which can also be obtained online on the Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom website. However, in the event that a commodity and its relative shipping costs do not exceed the value of £135, no duty will be applied at customs.

Exports from the UK

In order to avoid duties on goods manufactured within the United Kingdom and exported to other member states of the European Union, it is first of all necessary that these goods comply with the requirements of European origin and that they are shipped directly from the UK.

Consequently, the conditions of the TCA do not apply to dropshipping practices if the outgoing shipment comes from a third country. In fact, the seller must necessarily be registered in the REX system, a system that collects registered exporters and also those authorized to issue certificates on the European origin of products.It should be noted that the origin of the product does not depend only on the place where the materials used come from, but also on the place where the processing takes place and ends. This certificate of origin has a duration of 12 months and can be issued on an invoice or any other document that allows clear identification of the product.

How to ship to and from the UK

As we have seen, Brexit has caused a complication in the shipments of goods, so it’s better to be prepared. The costs and documents to prepare depend on several factors, including the origin, the type and the value of the goods. These factors may already be known if you have experience in the field of international shipments, but they are definitely complicated for those who were used to the previous conditions granted by the European Single Market.

Therefore, you cannot think of shipping products to the United Kingdom without first preparing yourself properly, because otherwise you would run into the risk of receiving fines from customs agencies and delays in the delivery of shipments. Below, we briefly list the basic steps to ship to and from the UK.

  • Obtain an EORI code (Economic Operator Registration and Identification number) from the customs agency of the country where you are based in order to ship goods outside the European Union (and vice versa).

  • Identify the HS codes related to the goods you intend to ship, in order to know the rate and duties that will be applied and fill in the appropriate documents in advance.

  • If you are exporting to the UK, register your UK VAT number to obtain the relevant HMRC code.

  • If you are importing into the EU, it is advisable to request the AEO number of the entity that is shipping, in order to simplify and speed up customs procedures.

The necessary documents

To what is listed above, you need to attach the documents that will be checked at customs, such as a copy of an ID, the tax code and the VAT number, but above all an invoice (pro forma or commercial) that must include:

  1. The shipping details of both the sender and the recipient;

  2. The reason why you are sending a specific commodity (commercial or gift);

  3. A list of what is present, the materials that make it up and its intended use;

  4. The unitary and total economic value of the shipment.

Finally, it will be necessary to attach the Free Export Declaration, containing the sender's personal data, their email and a telephone contact, the identification code of the shipment and the place and date on which it took place. A partial or incorrect compilation of all these documents will certainly cause delays in the shipment of the goods, which could even be detained at customs.

Relying on a professional fulfillment service

With the entry into force of Brexit, shipments to and from the United Kingdom have effectively become international shipments. As such, it is necessary to prepare several documents and know the conditions to be met in order to ship without running into problems. Furthermore, it cannot be excluded that, following further agreements and negotiations between the countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom, these conditions will change in the future.

To simplify and optimise this kind of shipments, especially if you have no experience in the field, you can rely on a professional fulfillment service that will not only prepare all the necessary documents but will also take care of the management of the inventory and the warehouse, the preparation of goods and the management of returns – activities that require time, economic resources and specific skills but that are necessary to achieve the ultimate goal for anyone who sells online: satisfying their customers, wherever they are.

IFS Italy has twenty years of experience in this area and can count on partnerships with the main postal and delivery services. Relying on IFS Italy's fulfillment service allows you to delegate all the aforementioned activities to an efficient company, capable of responding to the needs of businesses active in different sectors.

For more information on IFS shipping and fulfillment services, you can download the brochure or visit the fulfillment & e-commerce section.