UK businesses could face major import delays this month

Changes to import regulations could bring widespread disruption to UK supply chains this month, warns national same day courier company Speedy Freight.

Three in 10 of the leaders of firms that import from the EU polled by the Institute of Directors (IoD)* said they were not at all prepared for the change, with 37% of small businesses and nearly a quarter of large ones saying they were not ready.

From January 2022, strict new regulations to imports come into effect as a result of the UK’s exit from Europe, with further changes to follow in the next 12 months. The planned changes will bring import regulations in line with the current export procedures, which were changed back in January 2021.

Shona Brown, Network Service Manager and Speedy Freight’s resident Brexit expert highlights that these changes are likely to have immediate consequences in the New Year if brands don’t adequately invest in training for staff and in improving their procedures.

To ensure disruption is kept to a minimum across Speedy Freight’s UK wide network, Shona and her team are working closely with customers to identify each brand’s individual challenges, so they can be addressed before regulations change. 

Network Service Manager, Shona Brown said: “If you look back to January 2021, we had widespread disruption to UK supply chains, with brands bogged down in unfamiliar paperwork and HGV drivers stranded at the border. If businesses want to avoid the customs chaos this year, it’s essential they put plans in place now to adequately prepare for when the new legislation comes into effect from January 1st 2022.”

Currently, businesses are not required to provide all customs paperwork upfront when importing from the EU. VAT paperwork for example benefits from a 175-day grace period, meaning brands have nearly six months to process all the relevant documents even if the goods themselves have crossed the border into the UK.

From January 2022, all customs paperwork must be provided up front or goods will be refused entry to the UK.  At this stage, businesses will also lose out on the 175-day grace period for tariffs, and while it is possible to defer some VAT payments, all other charges must now be paid up front too.

A further update means hauliers will also be responsible for ensuring their drivers have a Goods Movement Reference (GMR) barcode, which can be created via the Government website here. This comes in addition to the previously required Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) and Movement Reference Number (MRN) barcode.

Although easy to produce, the new GMR barcodes are only valid for the exact time, ferry and goods that have been logged on the Government system. If a specific vehicle breaks down and needs to be replaced, or if a driver needs to change route for whatever reason, a new barcode must be provided in situ or the goods will not clear customs.

Shona Brown also cautioned: “Businesses importing live animals and food products, such as farm animals or eggs, must report their imports through the government’s Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS system) prior to arriving at the border, or they will be denied entry. It’s likely there will also be an increase in physical checks at the border. When similar regulations were introduced to exports in January 2021, delays of up to 48 hours were common.”

As well next month’s changes, live animal exports and food products are due to be hit by even more regulations in July 2022, which means all such imports will be subject to document, identity and physical checks at the border, rather than just the ‘high risk’ shipments.

Shona Brown continued: “The best advice I have for businesses is to make sure that they understand the new regulations inside and out before they come into effect. Every hour your shipment is stuck at the border costs you in time and money. Given the potential scope for disruption, this can have serious financial implications for brands.

“At Speedy Freight, we’ve put in over 250 hours of training to ensure our staff are on top of these changes. We’re also working closely with customers to identify the potential problems they may face in the New Year and helping to craft a bespoke solution for each one.

‘In recent weeks we’ve published a series of guides designed to make the upcoming changes more manageable for import businesses. As well as jargon busters, date charts and custom zone explainers, we’ve also published a Brexit checklist to help customers prepare.”

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

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