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17 March 2021

Brexit and Customs

How does Brexit affect customs?
The customs administration thoroughly prepared for Brexit in terms of staffing, IT-assisted customs clearance and awareness-raising among companies.

Half of a Union Jack and the sketch of the European stars. enlarge image
Source:  Federal Ministry of Finance

German customs was thoroughly prepared

The customs administration thoroughly prepared for Brexit to ensure that it had the resources and staffing needed to continue performing its tasks as effectively as possible post-Brexit. Upon its withdrawal from the EU, the UK – one of Germany’s most important trade partners – also left the EU single market and the customs union. For customs purposes, it is now a third country. This means that, as of 1 January 2021, all goods brought into the EU from the UK need to go through customs clearance.

For German customs, clearing goods from third countries is nothing new, but the volume has increased substantially since Brexit. However, German customs was well-prepared for this.

Significantly increased staff numbers: additional customs officers hired for Brexit

German customs significantly increased its staff numbers. The federal budget authorised funding for roughly 900 additional positions for Brexit. These positions are being filled in stages. At an early stage, additional customs officers were assigned to the customs offices that were expected to be most heavily affected by Brexit, especially the cargo airports in Leipzig, Frankfurt and Cologne. This strengthened customs clearance in areas that were particularly affected in order to improve services and meet businesses’ needs.

IT and flexible staffing to optimise customs clearance: a “Brexit pool”

To cope with the extra work caused by Brexit, German customs is deploying staff flexibly and optimising clearance procedures with the help of IT. For example, the Central Customs Authority has set up a “Brexit pool” that enables customs offices to respond flexibly to the quantitative and localised impacts of Brexit by providing IT-based support to each other as needed.

Outreach and information for businesses

The challenges that Brexit poses could not be met by the customs administration alone. Businesses had to make preparations as well. To raise the business community’s awareness of the impending changes, informational events on “Brexit and customs” were held in seven German cities nationwide. Communication continues to take place as needed between the Central Customs Authority and economic operators, especially postal and express service providers.

A customs website provides specialist information about the consequences of Brexit, with a focus on the customs requirements and formalities for the trade in goods with third countries. It also contains links to relevant information provided by the European Commission as well as the French and Dutch customs authorities (Eurotunnel and ports) as well as information provided by the UK government about the UK’s (customs) legislation.