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Great Britain will introduce the new British customs tariff system, the UK Global Tariff (UKGT), on January 1, 2021. This was announced by the UK Department for International Trade on 19 May, and will finally replace the EU customs tariff currently applicable to imports into the UK — a necessary consequence of implementing Brexit.

The UKGT provides for tariff reductions and exemptions in certain areas and is intended to bolster the UK economy after Brexit and enable cheaper imports. The British global customs tariff will henceforth be measured in British pounds (GBP).

The new regulation followed after a long period of consultation within the British government, aiming to avoid a situation where a provisional customs tariff was published after the threat of no-deal Brexit. This draft is now obsolete.

Note

Since the UKGT regulates the import of goods from third countries, all EU member states will be affected after it takes effect unless a joint trade agreement can be reached between the UK and the EU by the end of 2020.

But how does the new UKGT compare with the European Union’s common external tariff (the EU CET), and what do companies have to bear in mind?

UK Global Tariff: Rates of duty and exemptions

With the introduction of the UKGT, Great Britain is deliberately opting for lower customs duties and duty exemptions for certain goods. Around 60% of cross-border trade is to be duty-free.

Accordingly, customs duties will only be levied on goods exported from countries with which Britain does not have a preferential trade agreement.

This is good news for businesses and consumers alike: goods such as household items and groceries will be cheaper after Brexit.

In order to be able to continue to compete globally and remain competitive, existing trade barriers will be dismantled and bureaucratic procedures made easier.

The elimination of additional codesis likely to be of particular importance for businesses. A total of 6,000 tariff lines and 13,000 tariff variants, which were previously required when importing goods into Great Britain, will be changed or abolished.

This measure is designed to make it easier for companies to import goods from overseas and to keep administrative costs down.

UK tariffs for cars, agriculture and fisheries

Import duties will also be applied in the automobile, agricultural and fisheries sectors from 1 January 2021. Imported cars will be subject to a duty of 10%.

Customs duties on agricultural products such as lamb, beef and poultry as well as the vast majority of ceramic products will be retained.

Tariffs on products such as vanilla (6%), plantains (16%) and bed linen (12%) have been maintained to support developing countries’ access to the UK market.

There will also be tariff discrepancies for products such as biscuits, waffles, pizzas, quiches, confectionery and spreads.

Duty exemptions in the UK

These goods will be exempt from customs duties under the UKGT from 2021 onward:

Products of daily use, such as:

Products for UK manufacturing & industrial manufacturing including copper alloy tubes and screws

Products in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency, CO2 capture such as

Additionally, the import of almost all pharmaceuticals and most medical equipment (including ventilators) is duty free under the UKGT.

Furthermore, all customs duties below 2% will be abolished. This represents a significant difference compared to the arrangements in the current EU Customs Tariff.

Online Tool for UK Global Tariff

The UK government published the Online-Tool for the new UK Global Tariff.

Companies can use the online tool to view and check the customs tariffs for relevant goods. The tool allows users to view both the current Common External Tariff and the planned UK Global Tariff.

This will make it easy for companies to see whether they may have to pay higher tariffs or less when it comes into force on 1 January 2021.

However, the specific tariff rates only refer to the new Global Tariff.

The online tool does not provide information on import duties and restrictions or other measures such as anti-dumping, countervailing or protective duties.

The online tool allows companies to search for goods by entering a goods code, a product description, or a combination of the two.

Projected: Free trade agreement with Turkey

The British government is also currently planning a free trade agreement with Turkey, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. This should ensure duty-free trade for all goods currently traded in the EU-Turkey Customs Union. The UKGT will then apply to goods that are not covered by this agreement.

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