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The effects of Brexit: from customs and tax issues to economic consequences

From 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European market and consequently of its customs union. Commercial activities between the European Union and the UK are subject to previously absent bureaucratic obligations which cause, in some cases, slowdowns in export operations and additional costs for business. The setting to the new procedures is generating many customs, fiscal and economic problems, with consequences on both markets.

Post Brexit: the new trade rules between bureaucratic hitches and delivery delays

The exit of the United Kingdom from the Eurozone generated the application of new export procedures, specific to shipments to third countries outside the EU. The innovations introduced have caused various customs, fiscal and commercial problems since the first month, with consequent delays in the delivery of goods, long times for managing practices and waiting at borders, up to the non-arrival of the product on the shelves.


The main difficulties were recorded at the customs subject, where the setting of the Offices to the new export procedures is causing slowdowns at the borders and administrative hitches.

The most discussed issue is the failure to close the MRN (Movement Reference Number), the tracking number that identifies the export operation and ascertains that the goods have left the borders.

Further economic and fiscal complications arise from the application of duties on goods of non-EU origin, or with components of non-EU derivation, and from the payment of VAT to the entry Customs Office.

At the logistical level, we also point out the inconvenience due to the obligation to use fumigated pallets, or made with wood treated for parasites and molds, under penalty of blocking the goods at the border.

Due to these complications, overseas trade is recording a contraction to the detriment of both Italian exporting companies and British companies, some of which have decided to move warehouses and offices to Europe, precisely to simplify trade with EU countries.

Brexit: the new customs procedures and the failure to MRN discharge

Under the new procedures, companies that trade with the U.K. must electronically submit an export declaration to the Export Customs Office, complete with:

  • sales invoice
  • description
  • classification
  • origin of the product in all its components.

Once the control channel has been ascertained, the Customs Agency releases the export and issues the AED (Administrative Export Document), generating the MRN, the identification number for tracking the export operation.

The Exit Customs Office verifies the transit of the goods and notifies the Export Office, which in turn records the conclusion of the operation in the AIDA customs computer system.

The MRN ends, once the actual exit of the goods has been ascertained, with the note of successful export.

What happens if the MRN is not discharged?

In recent months, there have been several cases of failure to discharge the MRN, a procedural error that triggers a series of bureaucratic activities for the company, necessary in order not to incur penalties.

If the MRN is not closed, in fact, the operator must provide alternative proofs of the exportation of the goods within 90 days, through the retrieval of documentation.

Specifically, the exporting company must send a substitutive declaration of notorious deed in which the regular exit of the goods and its correspondence to what has been declared are certified; the declaration must also indicate the date of exit and the customs at which the transit of the goods took place.


The declaration must be accompanied by the following documents:

  • copy of the transport document or delivery note signed by the carrier or by the recipient of the goods;
  • copy of the sales invoice or bank document certifying the payment.


Brexit rules: the role of companies in the good management of export activities

Exporting companies must be aware of the new procedures required and of the risks associated with any complications that may arise.

As the manager of the export business, the company is required to actively participate in the correct management of the documentation and to intervene to remedy any bureaucratic errors within the deadline.

In case of failure to send the documentation for the closure of the MRN, the company will, in fact, be required to pay the VAT at customs, with the risk of incurring additional penalties.

Even in the case of shipping EX works, apparently less demanding in terms of the seller’s obligations, the company is not totally exempt from liability.

According to the Delegated Regulation to the Customs Code, in fact, since the buyer does not reside in the EU, the seller continues to hold the role of “exporter” and is therefore responsible for the proper performance of the exit customs procedures.

To better manage the new post Brexit customs procedures, it is important to rely on an experienced Freight Forwarder, competent in the subject, ready to offer complete advice and to collaborate, if necessary, in finding the required documentation.