Conference Brexit: one year of customs formalities, assessment and perspectives

Mise à jour le 04/03/2022

On 1 January 2021, customs formalities and controls on the European side of the border between the European Union and the United Kingdom were fully restored. The Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery is organising the ministerial conference "Brexit: one year of customs formalities, assessment and prospects" to share feedback from European customs and businesses on the new customs processes introduced to manage the UK's exit from the single market and to consider new ways of improving and deepening the existing arrangements.

Answers to questions asked at the Brexit conference on 27 January 2022

It is not possible to change the colour of the lane as this would mean changing the colour in the Customs IT system, in the IT systems of the ferry companies and on the signs installed on the infrastructures (ports and Tunnel). The DGDDI and its partners (cross-Channel link companies, customs in other Member States and trade federations) communicated extensively on the operation of the smart border and on the meaning of the green and orange lanes, leaving no doubt that the orange lane requires the lorry to stop at the border.

The VIES system is an IT connector between the national VAT number bases of all Member States. If you find that the response time for checking the validity of the VAT number when validating the import customs declaration is too long when applying for the 42 customs procedure, this means that the national database of the Member State in which the VAT number is registered is experiencing delays. These delays are independent of French Customs. In this case, we invite you to submit any request for improvement of the national VAT number database to the Member State concerned.

As the formalities mentioned above fall under the British health regulations and the British authorities, we invite you to contact the British health authorities for information on this subject.

The REX number (or registered exporter number) allows a company to export with full duty free treatment to the UK by including this number with a specific mention in the agreement (annex 4 "origin" of the agreement) on a certificate of origin on the invoice or any other commercial document, for consignments with a value of more than € 6000. This number is not necessary for consignments of a value of €6000 or less.

Whatever the value of the goods, the essential condition is that the goods must be of EU preferential origin within the meaning of the agreement, which is not possible if they are manufactured in China, and since the entry into force of the agreement on 1 January 2021.

Therefore, you cannot use this number REX for products that are not eligible for the agreement.

Article 18 of the TCA provides for two possible ways of claiming preferential treatment:

  •  the certificate of origin (Article 19)
  •  and the importer's knowledge (Article 21).

The certificate of origin is affixed to an invoice or other commercial document issued by the exporter which describes the exported originating products in sufficient detail to enable their identification. Above a value of EUR 6 000, a registered exporter number is required. In the event of a post-clearance check requested by the UK authorities to the customs authorities of the country of export, the latter will ask you to provide them with all the information (commercial and logistical documents, technical data sheets, photos, etc.) demonstrating that your exported product is indeed originating and that it meets the requirements of the chapter on rules of origin so that they can indicate to the UK authorities whether your product is indeed originating.

The knowledge of the importer is based on the business relationship between the exporter and the importer. The importer will apply for tariff preference and must be able to prove the originating status of the imported goods to the customs authorities of the importing country. In order to do this, the exporter will have to provide his British customer with all the information demonstrating that the exported product is indeed originating and that it meets the requirements of the chapter on rules of origin, and it is up to the latter to transmit it to the British authorities.

It is therefore important for the exporter and importer to make provision at the outset of their commercial relationship for the possible ways of claiming preferential origin and, in the case of the importer's knowledge, for the provision of all the data needed to establish the originating status of the goods. In both cases, it is essential that the exporter is familiar with the rule(s) of origin specifically applicable to his product(s), as the nature of the information useful for demonstrating preferential origin differs according to the rule of origin (maximum threshold of non-originating materials, specific working, change of tariff heading or rule of full obtention, etc.). 

The problem of undischarged export MRNs at the EU border is encountered by all Member States bordering the UK, as this is a new customs formality to which economic operators still have to get used. 

In the context of the smart border, the failure to clear export MRNs is largely due to the non-presentation of EADs when the lorry is paired at the exit. Carriers and drivers should be reminded that it is essential to present to the pairing agents at the time of pairing all the EADs attached to the goods carried by the truck. In order to make the matching of exit formalities as secure as possible, we recommend the use of the logistics envelope.

French and British customs didn't develop a common customs clearance system that allows French export formalities and British import formalities to be carried out. We invite you to contact the EDI connection providers to find out if they have an IT solution that allows both formalities to be completed in parallel.

At present, no equivalence of standards between the EU and the UK is provided for in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. No negotiations are currently planned on this point, mainly because of the refusal of the British political authorities to align themselves dynamically (i.e. over the long term) with European standards.

At present, no equivalence of sanitary legislation between the EU and the UK is provided for in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, preventing the implementation of lighter sanitary formalities.

The subject of the refoulement of goods due to an incorrectly filled in DSCE and the proposal that a "cancellation and replacement" should be more easily accepted without return to the country of origin are fully within the competence of the Veterinary and Phytosanitary Border Inspection Service (SIVEP) of the Directorate general for food. We therefore invite you to contact the DGAL for this type of question at

French Customs identify that many companies and sometimes logistics and customs clearance professionals have difficulties in understanding customs formalities and processes. In order to remedy this situation, we invite economic operators to take note of all the communication produced by European customs and the European Commission on their respective websites, to follow any training courses that may be offered on customs formalities and also to contact the Economic Action Poles (PAE) of French customs to benefit from personalised support.

You will find the list of French Customs EAPs and their contacts on the following page of the French Customs website: