Planning for Trade Issues 2020

Now that everyone has some time to catch a breath after the Brexit whirlwind of last year, we have an opportunity to plan ahead pro-actively in relation to Customs and Trade matters coming down the line during 2020.

We have detailed below some of the key issues that businesses should be focusing on and working through in their planning during 2020.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues listed please contact any member of the BDO Customs and Trade Team or email us at [email protected].


As always Brexit remains a critical focus as we move towards a new end date. It is now confirmed that the UK will leave the EU on 31 January and therefore will be a Third Country from that date.

There will be a temporary transition period to allow companies prepare for the new trading reality but, as with all things, time will move quickly towards 1 January 2021.

We recommend preparing an action plan of what your businesses requires to trade as of 1 January 2021 and work backwards from there, to ensure you have the requisite time to obtain the relevant authorisations. 

All Customs Authorisations take a minimum of three months and if you wish to obtain AEO status, you will need a year. Therefore, preparations need to start now.

In addition, the aim is to have a Free Trade Agreement in place on 1 January 2021 and we advise that companies check on: 

  • The documentation required to take advantage of an FTA
  • The Rules of Origin that you need to meet on your goods sold into the UK.

There is a common misconception that a Free Trade Agreement means goods move freely. This is not the case as all Import/Export Documentation continues to be required. In addition, customs duties will only be reduced to 0% where you qualify for specific origin rules regarding manufacturing. These can be difficult to manage, particularly where you are dual sourcing, purchasing goods from outside the EU or are undertaking insufficient manufacturing.  

Customs Clearance

After the transition period, starting 1st January 2021, the UK will become a Third country, therefore customs declarations will be necessary both for the import and export of goods to and from the UK. Completing customs declarations is not straightforward and usually businesses who trade internationally engage a specialist to perform this task. An inability to make customs declarations will affect the ability of traders to move goods and may be a threat to the viability of many businesses.

Customs Clearance Training 

BDO is offering training courses that will demonstrate how to make customs declarations that will enable your company to continue trading. Upon completion of the course, you will be in a position to decide whether you want to make your own declarations or proceed with a customs clearance agent.

If you decide to proceed with an agent, this course will also enable you to better understand and interpret the work that they are doing on your behalf.

If you are interested in attending one of these sessions or would like to find out more information please contact [email protected]

Customs Procedures and Simplifications

BDO will be hosting a Customs planning and training session covering a number of simplifications and duty savings procedures including EIDR, IPR, CW and End Use throughout 2020 – if you wish to attend or request information on an onsite workshop, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. 

These procedures are relevant to every business importing from outside the EU and will become increasingly relevant in 2021. Please note that in our experience, it is wise to budget 6 months between working on applications, developing reporting systems and obtaining approval from Revenue. Download our Customs Procedures and Simplifications brochure below for more detail.


The UK have confirmed they will continue to operate the AEO programme as is and they will be leveraging it to simplify procedures in UK-Ireland Trade.

Irish Revenue are expecting to similarly allow trade facilitation measures to those in the AEO net.

Of particular benefit to Traders looking at the impact of Brexit, is that AEO status will secure simplifications at the borders and potential administrative savings through reduced Export/Import Declaration requirements.

In addition:

  • Recognition will enable businesses to have their consignments fast-tracked through customs controls.
  • If a consignment is selected for examination, they will receive priority over non AEOs.
  • For businesses holding AEOS or AEOF status, they may opt to use a reduced data set when lodging entry or exit summary declarations.
  • AEO's will be given a lower risk score in risk analysis systems when profiling.
  • If physical controls are to be conducted AEO's will be given priority treatment.

This will be of particular benefit with Brexit, in order to have ease of access to and from the UK.  The process for application for AEO can be a laborious one. Although it involves company investment in terms of time and financial benefit; it can be useful to companies by helping them understand their own supply chains & exposure and additionally understand the benefits of introducing new systems & processes.

There has been a strong increase in demand from companies to obtain AEO status, which in turn has caused an increase in the length of time to gain authorisation from the Authorities.  It is also important to note that this authorisation may not be suitable for every company, particularly where additional procedures (such as veterinary checks) need to be carried out at the border.

AEO Customs Planning and Training

BDO will be hosting an AEO Customs Planning and Training session for ½ day in house in 2020 - if you wish to attend or request an onsite workshop to support with the project management of your AEO application please contact BDO at [email protected].

BDO can also offer a service in order to carry out a pre-audit on your company’s AEO application, self-assessment and companies procedures.

Duty Suspensions

On a bi-annual basis, the European Commission seek applications for autonomous duty suspensions and quotas. This scheme is administered by the Department of Business Enterprise & Innovation and, subject to some conditions, can help businesses in the manufacturing sector mitigate their Customs duty liability on raw materials imported from outside the EU.

This scheme may be of particular interest to operators in the Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Electronics industries.

BDO can assist companies prepare their application and liaise on their behalf to the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation.

The Closing date for this round of Autonomous Suspension/Quota applications will be the 31st of January 2020. Please contact us at [email protected] if you require more information regarding this scheme.

Dual Use & Export Controls

The European Union operates a system of controls of sensitive items from its Member States. These controls form part of a global framework designed to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to preserve regional stability and to protect human rights.

The items of commerce controlled under this framework include:

  • Dual Use items, i.e. items that have both civil and military application.
  • Military equipment
  • Firearms
  • Items that can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments.
  • Exports to countries subject to EU trade sanctions.

A breach of the controls laid down in Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 would constitute a serious offence and could result in the guilty party being liable to a fine or imprisonment in addition to reputational damage.  Irish companies exporting dual use products (which may include hardware or technology) will be subject to the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 428/2009, which in practice means that a licence is required for exportation of dual use items to destinations outside of the EU.

How BDO can help

BDO can assist companies determine their level of risk with regards to exportation of dual use items and liaise with the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation on their behalf with the purpose of securing an export licence.  

For more information on Dual Use and Export Controls, please contact a member of the Customs Team at [email protected].

Note: The recast of the Dual Use Regulation is expected in 2020. This is now in trialogue between the Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, however, discussions are believed to be slow. It is expected that this process will be finalised in 2020 and the new recast Regulation will be published.

Trade War

A trade war occurs when a country imposes tariffs/quotas on imported goods and the country that was initially penalised retaliates with similar forms of trade protectionism.

Trade wars can be caused by trade imbalances and the introduction of protectionist trade policies can be used as a way to resolve unrelated matters for example the EU-US Large Aircraft issue.

In many instances, the US uses national security (e.g. steel and aluminium tariffs) as the vehicle by which these measures are introduced and in so doing avoids censure from the WTO.

The Trump administration is in favour of the use of trade measures to force their trading partners to align with US policy across of range of issues. In 2019 the United State Trade Representative (USTR) introduced a range of measures targeting exporters in both China and the EU.

Irish cream liqueurs and dairy products were targeted in the latest round of US tariffs against EU companies (introduced as a result of the Large Aircraft issue).

In recent days, the US and China appear to be edging towards a trade deal. Having seen this strategy yield positive results, many commentators are of the opinion that the US will escalate its measures against EU exporters. This could put Irish businesses who export to the USA in a vulnerable position.

There are strategies for mitigating exposure to penal tariffs including:  

  • Requesting exemptions from USTR
  • Using cash flow measures like Free Trade Zones or Customs Warehousing
  • Duty drawback
  • Reduce the dutiable value of the goods in question.

BDO has a large global presence including in the USA. As such, BDO is well placed to provide local expertise if required. For more information on our network click here.