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I export seafood from Great Britain

Supporting information and guidance on exporting seafood from the UK.

Last updated: Wednesday 4th November 2020

1. How do I move fishery products from Great Britain to the EU and Northern Ireland at the end of the transition period? (excluding direct landings

While the process of moving fisheries and aquaculture products from Great Britain to the EU and Northern Ireland is expected to change at the end of the transition period, the details and extent of this change will be dependent on the outcome of the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU.

In the case of the UK and EU not being able to conclude a future trade agreement beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, UK exporters of fisheries products to the EU should consider the following:

Government guidance ‘The transition period’ and ‘Export fish to the EU from 1 January 2021’  can also provide more information.

2. By law, will I still have to provide prescribed traceability information to my customers? 

Yes. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act converts “direct EU legislation” which is “operative” immediately before exit day, into domestic law. As a result, the laws surrounding minimum traceability requirements such as Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 (Fisheries Control Regulations) and Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 (CMO Regulations) will continue to apply. Domestic legislation such as the Fish Labelling Regulations 2013 will also continue to apply.

From 1 January 2021, this means legislation surrounding the provision of lot information (such as lot ID number, catch date, vessel name etc.) must be complied with.

3. My consignments to the EU and Northern Ireland derive from UK-flagged vessels. Do I need to check that they eligible for export to the EU?

Yes. If you move seafood that originates from non-food approved UK-flagged vessel (i.e. fresh fish vessels, not factory, freezer or reefer vessels) it is worthwhile checking that the vessel has been registered and inspected by the local authority at its home port.

If you export seafood that originates from food approved UK-flagged vessel (i.e. factory, freezer or reefer vessels) it is worthwhile checking that the vessel has been approved by its local authority and the vessel has been put forward for listing on the EU’s list of approved establishments.

In order to sign an EHC for fishery products destined for the EU or Northern Ireland, the Certifying Officer in Great Britain must be able to determine that the vessel has been inspected and registered/approved by the UK authorities in compliance with EU hygiene legislation.

4. Does the UK possess ‘third country’ status?

At the end of the transition period (1 January 2021), the UK will need to be listed by the EU as a third country in order to gain approval to continue exporting seafood to the EU.

Defra is taking steps to gain listed third country status for the UK and anticipates obtaining such status at a European Commission meeting in December 2020, in advance of the end of the transition period.

The UK secured third country status on multiple occasions in 2019.

5. Does my approved food business need to be listed with the EU?

If you are an approved establishment in England or Wales that exports seafood to either the EU, or moves such products to Northern Ireland, or supply others that move your products in other commodities to the EU including NI, you need to be listed with the European Commission.

The Food Standards Agency will automatically put forward all approved establishments for listing with the European Commission. You must contact the FSA at eulistings@food.gov.uk  and ask for your business to be removed from the EU list, if you:

  • don’t export seafood to the EU
  • don’t move seafood to Northern Ireland
  • don’t supply others that use your products in commodities that are exported to the EU
  • don’t supply others that use your products in commodities that are moved to NI

Scottish food businesses should contact Food Standards Scotland at enquiries@fss.scot

6. What can I do to avoid delays at the border?

Missing or inaccurate paperwork is one of the most common causes of delay at the border. It is important to liaise with your overseas counterpart so the exporter understands what paperwork is required. Ensuring that documentation is legible, complete, thorough and correct can help to mitigate the risk of hold ups during border checks. The timely arrival of documentation contributes to a timely clearance, for example arranging for your documentation to arrive prior to the goods.

Use of a reputable customs broker with a good relationship with the customs authorities in the importing country can also help to ensure your goods are cleared efficiently.

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status gives quicker access to some simplified customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to ‘fast-track’ your shipments through some customs and safety and security procedures. Application preparation and submission for AEO status typically takes 3 to 12 months, followed by 120 days for customs to assess your submission, and conduct site visits. If you are interested in achieving AEO status, you are advised to read the relevant guidance published by HMRC here.

If you import from the EU you can also make use of the Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP). These will allow deferments on the submission of customs declarations, the payment of customs duty and other requirements as announced by the UK government on 12 June 2020. 

7. Will there continue to be mutual recognition of UK products across the EU?

Great Britain will no longer fall within the scope of the mutual recognition principle, if the transition period ends with no agreement on the UK-EU’s future trading relationship.

Mutual recognition allows products legally sold in one Member State to be sold in any other Member State even if the product standards are not harmonised. Harmonised products meet the legal requirements in both countries and can continue to be marketed in each country.

GB businesses exporting non-harmonised goods to the EU and Northern Ireland market will only need to consider the national requirements of the first EU, EEA or Northern Ireland market they export to.

GB businesses who have already exported a non-harmonised good to an EU, EEA or Northern Ireland market by meeting the relevant national requirements will not need to take any specific action. The mutual recognition principle will allow the product to be further marketed throughout the EU Single Market.

8. When we export seafood products, we will be exporting as the ‘UK’ and not as the ‘EU’. What impact will this have?

Export health certificates (EHCs) issued by the UK provide guarantees of compliance with the health requirements of the importing country. In future, the authorities of certain countries importing seafood from the UK may choose to carry out an inspection of the UK authorities and/or exporting businesses to ensure that their requirements are continuing to be met after the end of the transition period. Depending on the severity and nature of any non-compliance found, it is unlikely that any inspection would lead to a suspension in trade.

There is currently no indication that countries wish to carry out inward inspections in the short term. However it is key for exporters to continue to meet the requirements of the destination country and ensure EU requirements as a minimum continue to be met. See section 2 for the impact on product labelling and origin claims.

9. Will my wooden packaging (e.g. pallets) need to meet any new requirements

Yes. Wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the rest of the EU can currently move freely without checks or controls. From 1 January 2021 all WPM moving between the Great Britain and the EU (including Northern Ireland) must meet ISPM15 international standards and may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU or Northern Ireland.

ISPM15 international standards apply to solid wood packaging such as packing cases, boxes and crates, drums and similar packing, pallets, box pallets and pallet collars and dunnage (loose wood used to protect goods and their packaging).

These standards do not apply to processed woods like plywood, raw wood less than 6mm thick, or cardboard or other packaging materials.

You can check whether a pallet has been treated to ISPM15 standard if it bears 2 ISPM15 marks on opposite sides of the pallet. These marks must be visible and legible and can appear on the block, stringer or lead board of the pallet. A pallet simply having an ISPM15 stamp on may not mean it is compliant as it might not be fully legible.

Exporting solid wood packaging

You, or your packing service or freight forwarder, must make sure any solid wood packaging you use meets ISPM15 international standards.

All wood packaging material and dunnage which is exported to the EU and Northern Ireland from a non-EU country must be:

  • either heat treated or fumigated in line with ISPM15 procedures
  • officially marked with the ISPM15 stamp consisting of 3 codes (country, producer and measure applied) and the IPPC logo
  • debarked

If you export packaging outside the EU, check if the country you’re trading with accepts ISPM15 standards and if they have any other requirements.

You can either:

For more information see UK Government guidance ‘movement of wood packaging material’ and EU guidance ‘requirements for wood packaging and dunnage’.

There are special rules for Ireland and Northern Ireland, see our ‘Northern Ireland’ guide for more information.

10. What UK legislation covers seafood exports?

Legislation governing seafood exports is largely set out by the importing country. It is the responsibility of the exporter to identify what the importing country's requirements are, to take the necessary measures to meet them and to carry out any confirmatory checks. 

The UK places no particular controls on seafood exports other than those relevant to all food businesses, i.e. those related to compliance with food law. In the domestic context, these food laws include the UK’s Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) which covers operations involved in the export of food. It requires food businesses to ensure that they do not render food injurious to health, sell food not of the nature or substance or quality demanded to the purchaser’s prejudice nor falsely describe or present food.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act converts “direct EU legislation” which is “operative” immediately before exit day, into domestic law. As a result, the following EU food laws will remain applicable to UK food exports:

General Food Law

Article 12 of the General Food Law Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 requires that food exported or re-exported for placing on the market abroad needs to comply with relevant food law. 

Hygiene Regulations

Article 11 of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 requires food for export to comply with the following hygiene requirements, in particular:

  • The specific requirements inRegulation (EC) No 853/2004
  • Microbiological criteria
  • Hygiene procedures
  • Temperature control and maintenance of the cold chain
  • Sampling and analysis
  • The requirement to have in place a permanent documented procedure based on HACCP principles

11. How do I find out the seafood safety requirements in my destination market?

Each importing country has its own legislation governing seafood imports. UK exporters should check with the authorities in the destination country for the requirements they need to comply with. Importers in the destination market are usually very knowledgeable of the import specifications in their country.

If you do not have a contact in the importing country, you should contact the Department for International Trade’s Food & Drink Exports Team.

The team can provide advice on the standards and regulations that your product should seek to comply with and can also assist with introductions in new markets.

12. I export composite products containing seafood from Great Britain to the EU and Northern Ireland. Will my export procedures change from 1 January 2021?

Composite food products contain a mix of processed products of animal origin (POAO) and plant products (used as a main ingredient - not just added for flavouring or processing). More information about what constitutes a composite food product can be found here.

First, you need to determine whether your composite product is exempt from the requirement to enter the EU and/or Northern Ireland via a Border Control Post.

If your product is not exempt, you must:

  1. Make sure your products meet EU standards.
  2. Follow the wider changes for exporting to the EU after 1 January 2021, for example, around tariffs and customs declarations.
  3. Complete the Export Health Certificate (EHC) and supporting documents for sendingcomposite products to the EU. Follow the process to get your EHC signed by a vet.
  4. Plan your route to get an inspection at an EU BCP that can accept your type of goods.

If your product is exempt, you should:

  • Obtain a commercial document instead of an Export Health Certificate.
  • Send your products through any EU point of entry (you do not need to go through an EU BCP for inspections)
  • Follow the wider changes for exporting to the EU, for example, tariffs and customs declarations
  • Label your goods in an official EU language, with the:
  • nature, quantity and number of packages in the composite products
  • country of origin
  • manufacturer
  • ingredients

Composite products containing more than 20% fishery products or using tariff codes 1604 and 1605 may need a catch certificate.

Exempt species include some freshwater fish and aquaculture - check the list of exempt species.

If the fish is imported from a third country and then stored or processed in the UK before it’s exported to the EU, you’ll need to show storage documents or processing statements as well as the original catch certificate used to import the fish into the UK.

For more information see question ’39. How do I get a Catch Certificate, Storage Document and/or Processing Statement for my consignment to the EU and/or Northern Ireland?

For further advice on exporting composite products see UK Government Guidance: ‘Export composite food products to the EU from 1 January 2021’ and ‘Export fish to the EU from 1 January 2021

13. Can my vivier lorry obtain approved establishment status?

Generally speaking, transport operations are considered exempt from approval requirements in food law. However a transport vehicle may be approved, providing the vehicle in question falls within the scope of approval and meets the relevant requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 and Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004.

You should discuss your approval needs with your local authority.

14. My catch is landed in Great Britain and immediately loaded onto a lorry for export to the EU/Northern Ireland. Can I still operate this way after 1 January 2021?

See ‘I catch or farm Seafood’ guide.

15. I move live aquatic animals from Great Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland for aquaculture purposes. Will my processes change?

See ‘I catch or farm seafood’ guide.

16. I move live aquatic animals from Great Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland for direct human consumption. Will my processes change?

See ‘I catch or farm seafood’ guide.

Labelling

17. What labelling changes do I need to make to my pre-packaged seafood to reflect that the UK has left the EU?

From the end of the transition period, seafood produced in Great Britain and placed on the EU and Northern Ireland market must not be labelled as ’EU’ in origin. Examples of where this applies are:

A. Origin labelling. Seafood produced in GB must not be labelled as origin ‘EU’ from 1 January 2021. Goods sold in NI will continue to follow EU rules for labelling.

B. Food business addresses. Pre-packaged seafood must have an EU or Northern Ireland (NI) address for the food business under whose name the food is marketed, or an address of the EU or NI importer on the packaging or food label.

The name and a GB address of the business operator under whose name the food is marketed is the business operator responsible for the product regardless of the actual producer. This could also be the producer for a branded product or a retailer in the case of retailers own label product even though it is produced by another business. 

More detail can be found in the government guidance Food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021’ 

18. What changes need to be made to EU health and identification marks at the end of the transition period?

Health and identification (ID) marks are oval stamps that must be applied to certain food products of animal origin (POAO). Also known as hygiene approval numbers, they are required by EU law to be exhibited on POAO to show that the food business responsible has met the relevant EU hygiene requirements and to allow the product to be traced back to the place of production.

Health marks are generally applied by vets to carcases so ID marks are of most relevance to seafood. ID marks however are often unofficially referred to as health marks.

As of 11pm on 31 December 2020, competent authorities and food businesses in England, Wales and Scotland will not be able to apply the current ‘EC’ ID mark to seafood products produced in a UK approved establishment.

At the end of the transition period, an ID mark applied in a local authority approved establishment in Great Britain must remove any reference to ‘EC’ or ‘EEC’. Products carrying the existing EC ID marks will not be eligible for movement to the EU or Northern Ireland.

There will be no adjustment period for GB businesses to continue using the existing EC health and ID mark on the EU and non-EU market. An adjustment period will only be available for products placed on the GB market. See question '21. Will there be an adjustment period for the new health and identification marks?’ for more information

An ID mark applied in a local authority approved establishment in Great Britain must also carry:

  • GB or United Kingdom for placing on the EU or Northern Ireland market.
  • GB, UK or United Kingdom identification mark can be placed on the non-EU market.

In circumstances where the final destination of the product is unknown, dual health marking is not permitted (see question '20. Can I apply two different health marks if I do not know the final destination of my product? for more information).

You can find more information and some example ID marks in this FSA guidance

19. If I move my products to the EU or Northern Ireland before the end of the transition period will I need to use the new health/ID marks?

If your UK business places seafood on a market before the end of the transition period, it will be allowed to reach its end user in the market it was placed, with the existing health and identification marks.

'Placing on the market', is defined as the holding of food or feed for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution, and other forms of transfer themselves.

Seafood placed on the market in the EU before the end of transition period can reach the end-user on the EU market without the need for re-labelling.

Seafood moved into the EU and Northern Ireland markets from Great Britain after the end of the transition period will require re-labelling to meet the new requirements.

Seafood placed on the market in Northern Ireland before the end of Transition Period, can reach the end-user on either the UK or EU markets, without the need for re-labelling.

20. Can I apply two different health marks if I do not know the final destination of my product?

No- a product cannot display two health or identification marks.

In circumstances where the final destination of the product is unknown, one health mark must be displayed in order to comply with EU legislation.

21. Will there be an adjustment period for the new health and identification marks?

The current EC health and identification marks can be used for the duration of the agreed transition period (until 1 January 2021). 

The revised form of the health and identification (ID) marks (as set out in question '18. What changes need to be made to EU health and identification marks at the end of the transition period?’) must be used for products that are exported to the EU, Northern Ireland and Non-EU countries, from 1 January 2021.

The Food Standards Agency plans to introduce a Statutory Instrument which will allow the continued use of the existing EC health and ID mark from 1 January 2021 to 30 September 2022. This concession period will only be available for products placed on the GB market. It will not be possible for GB exporters to use the existing UK/EC mark for products destined for the EU or Northern Ireland after the transition period.

22. Can my products destined for the EU Single Market continue to be labelled in English only?

Future requirements do not change at all in this respect from the current situation.

Mandatory food information should be provided in “a language easily understood by the consumers of the Member States where the food is marketed” which generally means the official Member State language(s) of its destination country.

23. Will EU Geographical Indictors (GIs) have international protection?

From 1 January 2021, GI protection will continue for products currently named in:

  • EU free trade agreements where the UK has signed a continuity agreement
  • Other EU third country sectoral agreements where the UK has signed a continuity agreement

24. Have bilateral discussions taken place with EU member states about pragmatic approaches to enforcement?

No. The UK has no control over enforcement outside the UK. The EU and other non-EU countries may require wholly accurate labelling for access to their markets. In these instances, the UK can only recommend that labels are replaced or over-stickered as required to ensure they are fully accurate. This would include ensuring country of origin labelling, health marks and responsible business addresses were correct. Please note - a business can use the address of the importer of the goods into the EU as an acceptable alternative.

Customs and Tariffs

25. How do I check the Commodity Code and/or tariff for my goods going to the EU?

Prior to the end of the transition period, the UK Trade Tariff Tool can help you to find the correct commodity code for your exports. The tool however should be used with caution as identifying the wrong code risks paying the wrong tariff, costly delays at the border or even goods being blocked from entering the EU. 

If you are unsure which commodity code best fits your product, HMRC are best placed to offer the necessary advice. Contact details are provided in this government guidance.

Once the correct commodity code has been identified, the UK Trade Tariff Tool lists the VAT and tariff applicable to that commodity code. During the transition period, the UK Trade Tariff Tool will show the tariffs that currently apply for imports into the EU (including the UK).

More information on how to use the UK Trade Tariff Tool can be found here.

Following the close of the transition period the UK Trade Tariff Tool will show the tariffs applicable for imports into the UK and not imports into the EU as is currently shown.

Should the UK and EU not agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, UK-EU trade will be conducted on non-preferential WTO terms. This means that full, 'Most Favoured Nation' (MFN), tariffs and non-preferential rules of origin would apply to consignments of UK seafood at the EU destination country.

Should the UK and EU agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement; tariffs will instead be set at the preferential rates agreed.

To access commodity code and tariff information for your exports to the EU after 1 January 2021, UK businesses are advised to use the EU’s Access2Markets tool.

26. Do I need an EORI number to trade with the EU?

In order to trade with the EU at the end of the transition period you may need two types of Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

GB EORI

A GB EORI number will allow you to trade goods into or out of Great Britain. It will allow you or your agent to submit the necessary customs declarations and to apply for customs simplification procedures. You should check that your GB EORI number will start with ‘GB’ and is followed by 12 digits which will include your VAT number. You may already have a GB EORI number if you trade with non-EU countries

If you are a VAT registered GB business, HMRC may have automatically allocated you a GB EORI number. If you are not a VAT registered business or have not received your GB EORI number, contact HMRC or to apply.

GB businesses should refer to government guidance on GB EORI numbers for the latest information.

EU EORI

A UK business will need an EU EORI number only if it is dealing directly with EU customs authorities. If your importer or customer in the EU deals with the EU customs authorities on your behalf, they will need to have an EU EORI number.

EU EORI numbers must be applied for in the customs authority in the EU where you first conduct trade or request a customs decision from. Details on EU Member State customs authorities can be found here.

An EU EORI number is not required if you only move goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

UK businesses should refer to EU guidance on EU EORI numbers for more information.

27. Do I need an EORI number to trade with Northern Ireland?

In order for GB businesses to trade with Northern Ireland at the end of the transition period you may need two types of Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

GB EORI

See question 26. Do I need an EORI number to trade with the EU?'

XI EORI

From 1 January 2021 you’ll need an EORI number that starts with XI to move goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries, to make a declaration in Northern Ireland, and to get a customs decision in Northern Ireland.

To get an EORI number that starts with XI, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB. If you do not have one, apply for an EORI number that starts with GB as soon as possible.

If you already have an EORI number that starts with GB and HMRC thinks you need one that starts with XI, they’ll automatically send you one in mid-December 2020. The XI EORI number will be the same as your GB EORI number but the prefix will be different (XI).

Signing up to the Trader Support Service before 23 November will ensure you automatically receive an XI EORI number and can provide additional advice on moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

See 30. How will the new Trader Support Service help to move my products from GB to Northern Ireland? for more information on the Trader Support Service.

28. I export to the EU so no customs duties are paid on the goods at their destination. Will this change?

Should the UK and EU not agree a future trading relationship beyond the Withdrawal Agreement, UK-EU trade will be conducted on non-preferential WTO terms. This means that full 'Most Favoured Nation' (MFN) tariffs and non-preferential rules of origin would apply to consignments of UK seafood at the EU destination country.

The tariffs that will apply in the EU can be found using the EU’s Access2Markets tool. The EU may change these rates before the close of the transition period, but the current tariff rates can be used as an indication

29. Will I have to pay customs duties on the seafood I move to Northern Ireland at the end of the transition period?

While Northern Ireland will remain part of the customs territory of the UK, customs checks and controls will apply for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. That ensures no customs checks or controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the conditions under which goods can move tariff-free between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and at the same time move without customs controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Joint Committee will decide on detailed criteria for what goods are “at risk” of being shipped on to the EU and will therefore have to pay the EU tariff. The definition of “at risk”, which will be agreed during the transition, will determine the volume of GB–NI trade where checks are required.

30. How will the new Trader Support Service help to move my products from GB to Northern Ireland?

The UK Government will ensure that the property rights in all existing registered EU trade marks will continue to be protected and to be enforceable in the UK by providing an equivalent trade mark within the UK.

The government will work to provide continued protection of trademarks and designs, filed through the Madrid and Hague systems, which respectively designate ‘EU’ origin.

Provision will be made regarding the status of legal disputes involving EU trade marks which are currently sub judice before the UK courts. More information will be provided on this before the UK exits the EU.

Currently businesses in any country can apply for protection in the UK and/or EU through separate approval processes. This will remain unchanged and UK, EU and third country applicants, will continue to be able to apply for protection in the EU through an EU trade mark, as is currently the case. 

More detail can be found in the government advice ‘EU Trade mark protection and comparable UK trade marks from 1 January 2021’.

31. How will the situation as regards EU Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) change after the close of the transition period?

GI schemes protect the geographical names of food, drink and agricultural products. There are currently 14 UK seafood PGIs. The UK will set up its own GI schemes to replace the EU’s schemes on 1 January 2021 in accordance with its World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations.

Legislation laid before Parliament on 22 October 2020 will:

  • Provide the legal framework in England, Scotland and Wales to administer and enforce the GI schemes
  • Ensure continued protection of existing UK-origin GIs and non-UK GIs agreed through trade agreements
  • Establish the new UK logo in law and ensure GI logos are no longer required on GB products, and simplify the application process

Defra will manage the UK GI schemes, maintain the registers of protected product names and process new applications for protection. The schemes will be open to producers based in the UK and other countries. The UK schemes will use the following designations:

  • Protected designation of Origin (PDO)
  • Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
  • Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)

Registered GIs that can be produced anywhere on the island of Ireland will continue to be fully protected in both the UK and EU.

New product applications

From 1 January 2021, producers will need to apply to the relevant:

  • UK scheme to protect a new product name in Great Britain
  • EU scheme to protect a new product name in Northern Ireland and the EU

GB producers will need to secure protection under UK schemes before applying to EU schemes. Northern Ireland producers do not need to secure protection under the EU schemes before applying to UK schemes.

Defra will publish further guidance for producers on how to apply to the UK and EU schemes at the end of the transition period.

Use of UK GIs logos on products and packaging

New UK GI logos are available to download and can be used from 21 January 2021.

Producers or retailers of seafood GI products produced and for sale in GB and registered before 1 January 2021 will have until 1 January 2024 to change packaging/marketing materials to display the new UK GI logos.

Producers or retailers of seafood GI products produced and for sale in GB and registered from 1 January 2021 must use the relevant UK logo on any product packaging/marketing materials as soon as the product is registered.

GB GI products that are protected in the EU can continue to use the EU logo in the UK, in addition to the UK logo, after the transition period.

For producers and retailers of seafood GI products in Northern Ireland, it will be:

  • Mandatory to continue using the EU logos when the product is on sale in NI if the product is registered under the EU GI schemes
  • Optional to use the new UK GI logos if the product is registered under the UK GI schemes

32. Should I use a Customs Broker, Agent or Freight Forwarder to help with customs procedures?

Most businesses use a customs broker/agent or freight forwarder to make customs declarations for them. This can make exporting simpler and faster and can reduce the risk of delays at the border.

It is possible to make your own customs declarations if you have the appropriate qualification and use approved software. Given the complexity of the process, this approach is generally better suited to the more experienced exporter but can be more cost effective than using an agent. Grant funding has been made available to help UK businesses complete customs declarations themselves, in preparation for the end of the transition period.

The UK Government has established a new free-to-use Trader Support Service which can be used to complete customs declarations on your behalf, when moving goods into Northern Ireland from GB or non-EU countries. See question '30. How will the new Trader Support Service help me move my products from GB to Northern Ireland? for more information.

33. I export to a non-EU country and no customs duties are paid at the destination. Is this likely to change from 1 January 2021?

After 31 December 2020, EU trade agreements will not apply to the UK.

If the UK agrees a Free Trade Agreement with your country of destination by 31 December 2020:

The UK is seeking to reproduce the effects of existing EU agreements for when they no longer apply to the UK. This will ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK businesses. A list of agreements expected to take effect from 1 January 2021 can be found here. The agreements may contain minor changes to the original agreement, particularly in the area of rules of origin and may contain minor changes to duty rates.

The rules of origin in transitioned agreements will enable businesses in the UK and the trading partner to continue to operate as much as possible through their established value and supply chains, including continuing to make use of EU content in their exports to one another. The proof of origin required under transitioned agreements is as similar as possible to those used in the previous EU agreement. Different trade deals permit different types of proof to be submitted to demonstrate the origin of goods. This may include a certificate of origin in a particular format or a declaration on an invoice.

Updated certificates of origin will be available from your usual provider. The certificates will look very similar to those currently in use, but will show the UK as the place of origin rather than the EU.

The UK is also negotiating new trade agreements that were not possible during EU membership. Details can be found on DIT website.

If the UK has NOT agreed a Free Trade Agreement with your country of destination, by 31 December 2020: 

If the UK does not reproduce the effects of an existing EU agreement, trade with other World Trade Organization (WTO) members will take place on WTO terms when EU trade agreements cease to apply to the UK. This may result in changes to duty rates.

Countries that are currently applying full (MFN) tariffs on imported seafood from the EU will continue to do so on goods originating from the UK.

34. I export to non-EU countries. Will my export procedures change?

In the immediate instance, requirements for trade to third countries outside the EU will not change at the end of the transition period. However changes may be required to the wording of the documentation, which would need to be agreed with the destination country, to reflect the fact the UK is no longer a member of the EU. Defra is working to agree updates for all existing export health certificates, prioritising the countries to which the UK exports the highest volumes. Exporters to non-EU third countries would need to check, before export, the latest version of the Export Health Certificate for that particular destination.

See question ’33. I export to a non-EU country and no customs duties are paid on the goods at their destination. Is this likely to change on from 1 January 2021? for more information on tariff arrangements with non-EU countries.

Export Documentation

35. What is an Export Health Certificate and do I need one for my consignment to the EU and/or Northern Ireland?

An Export Health Certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms your export meets the health requirements of the destination country.

You must include a completed EHC for all movements of seafood to the EU and Northern Ireland at the end of the transition period and you may also need an EHC for each country that the consignment transits through (as well as an EHC for your final destination country).

At the end of the transition period, non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into the EU and/or Northern Ireland at a port designated by NEAFC and the EU, will not require an Export Health Certificate. ‘Fresh fish’ may have undergone primary production, which may include de-heading or gutting.

If you move live aquatic animals from Great Britain to the EU and/or Northern Ireland for aquaculture purposes, you will need an Export Animal Health Certificate (EAHCs) from the relevant competent authority. This is a different certificate to the EHC (for more information see question ‘15. I move live aquatic animals from Great Britain to the EU or Northern Ireland for aquaculture purposes. Will my processes change?’

There are currently three different model EHCs for exports of fresh and processed fish, shellfish and farmed fish for human consumption to the EU and/or Northern Ireland.
1. Export of fishery products intended for human consumption
2. Export and store live aquaculture animals, fish eggs and uneviscerated fish intended for human consumption
3. Export live bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates and marine gastropods intended for human consumption

36. How do I get an Export Health Certificate for my consignment to the EU and/or Northern Ireland?

On 21 August 2020, the UK Government launched ‘EHC Online’, a digital service which allows exporters and Certifiers to apply for and certify Export Health Certificates (EHCs) remotely.

This new service means that instead of emailing your completed PDF application to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), exporters will be able to apply online for the most frequently used EHCs.

It is anticipated that the new service will ensure that exporters and Certifiers can easily obtain a new EHC when additional certification of exports of seafood to the European Union (EU) will be required at the end of the transition period.

To make an application via EHC Online:

  1. Exporters should follow a two-step registration process for the EHC Online service; the first requires a Government Gateway account, and the second a Defra-specific account – both of which can be set up online.
  2. Your Certifying Officer must also be registered on the EHC Online system, so check that they have also signed up. If you have not yet chosen a Certifying Officer, there are various ways you can find one:

You should check that your Certifying Officer is able to inspect your consignment and sign your EHC in the days before you want to export. Exporters of perishable fishery products should contact their Certifying Officer to discuss specific needs.

  1. Log into EHC Online via the UK Government’s Form Finder tool or via your Defra account.
  2. Select ‘Start a new application’ on the Exporter Dashboard or clone a previous application.
  3. Complete the required steps and submit your application.
  4. Once APHA has approved your EHC application, they will let your Certifying Officer know when your EHC is ready to download and print:
  • 7 working days before your export date
  • within one working day of receiving it, if you plan to export in the next 7 working days

You will be able to see when APHA has sent your certificate to your Certifying Officer on the system.

  1. The certifying officer will then inspect your export to check it meets the health requirements of the destination country. If your consignment is compliant, they will then complete, sign and give the EHC to you. They will also send a copy to APHA.

The EHC must travel with your animal products to the export destination.

Local Authorities may charge a fee to the exporter for the required certification.

More information on accessing EHC Online for exporters.

Further advice on getting an EHC can be found in this government guidance.

37. Are there other ways I can obtain an Export Health Certificate?

For frequent and regular consignments to the same country, exporters can apply for blocks of up to 50 Export Health Certificates (EHCs) to be held by local authorities (LAs) or Official Veterinarians (OVs) ready for export. Issuing 'blocks' of serially numbered EHCs to LAs/OVs in advance, will help when certificates are required at pace.

Block certificates can be requested via the EHC Online service by indicating the number of certificates required on the relevant application (see question ’36. How do I get an Export Health Certificate for my consignment bound for the EU and/or Northern Ireland?’).

Official Veterinarian

An official veterinarian may be able to sign your export health certificate, in addition to a local authority Certifying Officer. Check the list of commercial vets who can sign EHCs.

Groupage Export Facilitation Scheme

The Groupage Export Facilitation Scheme (GEFS) enables the use of time limited (30 day) Support Attestations to facilitate export health certification for groupage exports from Great Britain to, or for transit through, the EU and/or Northern Ireland.

Support Attestation provide information from supplier/manufacturing establishments, who are currently approved under EU regulations (Regulation (EU) 853/2004), to the certifying Official Veterinarian at the exporting premises.

Example: an exporter may group several supplier consignments into a single export consignment. The Official Veterinarian would use the Support Attestations provided by each of the exporter’s suppliers and their personal knowledge to check and certify the consolidated consignment.

The products for export must be fully packaged for the final consumer and produced using only animal content from a traceable network of known suppliers

Exporters must also be GEFS members to benefit and the scheme will commence at the end of the transition period: 1 January 2021. Primarily, the scheme will be for products certified by Official Vets but Defra are working to facilitate non-vet involvement.

For a definition of a groupage export and for more information on the scheme and how to apply, please see this draft advice.

‘Hub’ Approach

DFDS in conjunction with the Scottish Government have developed a ‘hub’ approach to Export Health Certification (EHC). The purpose of this approach is to allow for the consolidation of goods under one EHC. It is anticipated that it would assist seafood exporters in rural locations or areas with limited certifying officers. For more information contact DFDS Larkhall.

This approach is currently being considered for development in England.

38. What language should my EHC be in?

Export Health Certificates (EHCs) should be presented in English, the language at the port of entry into the EU and the language of the destination. It is not necessary to include the language of any countries through which the consignment passes.

A translation of the EHC may be required upon entry at an EU Border Control Post (BCP) and at the EU Member State of destination. If you include export destination details in the application form, APHA will complete the translations for you, and send them to your Certifying Officer. If you don’t know the destination when you apply, it will be down to you or your Certifying Officer to prepare the translations

39. How do I get a Catch Certificate, Storage Document and/or Processing Statement for my consignment to the EU and/or Northern Ireland?

The Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) ‘Fish Export Service’ provides an online system for creating UK catch certificates, processing statements and storage documents. Many UK fish exporters were acquainted with the ‘Fish Export Service’ at the end of 2019, but may have noticed the system has been offline since January 2020 for further development work.

The MMO plan to re-launch the ‘Fish Export Service’ in public beta on 16 November 2020. Please monitor UK Government Guidance for more information on the launch.

There are different rules for Northern Ireland.

Catch Certificate:

Exporters from England, Scotland and Wales will be required to obtain a validated catch certificate for every export of most fish and fishery products to the EU and/or Northern Ireland.

The catch certificate shows that the fish was caught legally and it is the responsibility of the exporter to ensure that a catch certificate is completed at the point of export. The Catch Certificate is not required to physically accompany the consignment.

To create a catch certificate you need:

  • a Government Gateway user ID and password
  • the company name and address of the exporter
  • the name of the person responsible for the export
  • the species (or FAO code), its state and its presentation
  • the EU tariff commodity code for each product
  • the names or PLNs of the vessels that caught the species, and the landing dates
  • the export weights of each product
  • to say whose waters the species were caught in
  • transport details for how the export will leave the UK and where it will leave from
  • the identification numbers of the containers used to export the product

You won’t need a catch certificate to export:

  • Farmed fish and farmed shellfish
  • Freshwater fish or freshwater shellfish
  • Fish fry or larvae
  • Some molluscs including scallops, mussels and oysters, but you may still need a live shellfish registration document - contact your local council for more information.

You must send the validated catch certificate to the importer so that they can provide them to the receiving country’s competent authority. You must do this for exports by:

  • sea: 72 hours before landing
  • air and rail: 4 hours before arriving
  • road: 2 hours before arriving

See UK Government Guidance ‘Create a UK Catch Certificate’ for more information.

The MMO’s Fish Exports Helpline can also support you through the catch certification process. Telephone: 0330 159 1989

The Multiple Vessel Scheduled (MVS)

To apply for a UK catch certificate, the exporter will be required to enter a breakdown of each vessel that caught the fish comprising a single consignment. It is understood that this is a legal requirement as set out in Article 12(2) and 12(3) and Annex II of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008.

The Multiple Vessel Schedule can be completed and submitted alongside your catch certificate application on the Fish Export Service. The details required for each vessel will include the vessel name(s), PLN, fish species, product and weight (by date of landing for each vessel). The MMO’s Fish Exports Helpline can support you through the MVS process. Telephone: 0330 159 1989 

Storage Document:

If you are exporting to the EU and/or Northern Ireland fish sourced from another country that has been stored in the England, Scotland or Wales for more than 12 hours, but not processed in any way, you’ll need to apply for a storage document.

You must include a copy of the catch certificate from the original consignment with the storage document.

See UK Government guidance to ‘Create a UK storage document’ for more information.

Processing Statement:

If you’re sending consignments to the EU and/or Northern Ireland containing fish sourced from another country that has been processed in the England, Scotland and Wales, you’ll need to apply for a processing statement.

If the consignment has used more than one processing plant in GB, you’ll need a separate processing statement for each plant.

You must include a copy of the catch certificate from the original consignment with the processing statement.

See UK Government Guidance ‘Create a UK processing statement’ for more information.

Trade policy

40. Will current trade arrangements with EEA countries apply at the end of the transition period? 

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland trade with the EU under an agreement.UK trade with these countries will be treated as trade with EU member states in accordance with such agreements during the transition period.

The UK Government has concluded trade agreements with the Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein and Switzerland as well as some other non-EU countries. This will allow trade with these countries to continue with minimal changes after the transition period ends. Trade agreements with Iceland and Norway have been agreed in part. These agreements cannot be concluded until the exact nature of the UK–EU relationship is known, because the UK’s relationship with these countries is influenced by the UK’s relationship with the EU. You can find the latest information on signed trade agreements

41. I import seafood from another country then re-export it to a non-EU country. Will I face any issues from 1 January 2021?

If you import seafood from outside of the UK and do not carry out any processing, packing or wrapping on the goods in the UK, before you export them to a non-EU country, you may wish to check the terms of the Export Health Certificate (EHC) for the destination country.

Some of the UK’s EHCs for non-EU countries contain an attestation that the seafood being certified for export derives from an establishment approved by the UK competent authority. If no processing, packing or wrapping is carried out on the imported seafood once it has arrived in the UK, the products cannot be said to derive from a UK approved establishment. Therefore the Certifying Officer may be unable to sign the EHC.

In general, UK goods seeking to enter a non-EU country under a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will have to prove that they are from the UK in accordance with the Rules of Origin agreed in the FTA. If the UK has negotiated a FTA with your destination country at the end of the transition period, it is recommended that you check the Rules of Origin in the FTA.

A list of Free Trade Agreements expected to take effect from 1 January 2021

42. Will I be able to take advantage of the EU’s existing Free Trade Agreements at the end of the transition period?

No, the UK will no longer be a party to these agreements. However the UK is seeking to reproduce the effects of existing EU agreements for when they no longer apply to the UK (from 31 December 2020). This will ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK businesses. A list of agreements expected to take effect from 1 January 2021 can be found here. The agreements may contain minor changes to the original agreement, particularly in the area of rules of origin and may contain minor changes to duty rates.

UK businesses should refer to government guidance on ‘UK trade agreements with non-EU countries’ for the latest developments and discussion on the transition of EU trade agreements.

Some agreements however will not be in place before the end of the transition period. In this case, trade with these countries would take place on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms using ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) tariffs. This may result in changes to duty rates.

Information on preferential and MFN rates can be accessed at the European Commission’s Market Access database.

43. Can products made before the end of the transition period and stored in warehouses be sold legally in the EU after 1 January 2021?

Foods placed on the EU market before 23:00hrs GMT can continue to be circulated throughout the EU. Any ‘supply of a good for distribution, consumption or use on the market in the course of a commercial activity, whether in return for payment or free of charge’ is considered to be placed on the market and can therefore continue to circulate freely. If you intend to circulate goods around the EU you will need to prove they were placed on the EU market before this time.

Goods placed in storage in Northern Ireland before the end of the transition period will continue to have free circulation within the UK and EU single market.

44. How do I report a barrier to trade with another country?

If you become aware of a barrier to trade with another country you can report the issue for resolution on the report a trade barrier portal

45. Do I need to agree Incoterms with my EU trading partners?

Incoterms define the responsibility of buyers and sellers in the delivery of goods and could be vital if you experience any issues at the EU border. Incoterms seek to avoid costly misunderstandings by clarifying the tasks, costs and risks involved in the delivery of goods from sellers to buyers.

More information can be found here.

46. What will happen to UK goods already on the EU market if no future trade agreement is in place by 1 January 2021?

Food products placed on the EU Single Market before the close of the transition period can continue to be sold, distributed or transferred in the EU Single Market without the need for labelling changes.

The definition of 'food products placed on the EU Single Market' is food that has been:

  • Held in the EU Single Market for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not; or
  • Sold, distributed, or transferred by other forms to the EU Single Market.

See 19. If I move my products to the EU or Northern Ireland before the end of the transition period will I need to use the new health/ID marks?’ for more information.