Andreas Russ, Managing Director UK/Ireland at a. hartrodt in London, observes "two different approaches" since the UK and the EU have been separated by a customs border since the beginning of the year. The EU side meticulously checks documents for imports into the EU. British customs is different: "Almost everything goes through, only goods such as alcohol or tobacco are checked. That means higher costs for British exports, but at the same time imports to the UK run relatively smoothly thanks to temporary relief." The UK is partially extending the ability to defer customs declarations for EU standard goods until January 1, 2022. "For a. hartrodt's customers, this is a relief because they don't have to submit the import declaration until six months after the import," Russ says. But he recommends not to delay it.
Trade volume with EU sharply reduced
Foreign trade, however, is clearly showing signs of slowing down: In January and February 2021, British imports from the EU were 19.2 percent below the 2018-2020 average (exports: minus 17.2 percent), according to Germany Trade & Invest. Russ also attributes the sharply reduced trade volume to the fact that many companies had "hoarded". Russ: "Online retailers in particular opened warehouses and branches in the UK and EU to cut costs."
a. hartrodt listed on government’s list of customs brokers
Due to Brexit, a. hartrodt UK is increasingly offering import and export customs clearance, primarily for existing customers. The freight forwarder is on the government's list of customs brokers: "We have been bombarded with inquiries since January," reports Russ. That's why he has to further increase his current team of 30 – however, the personnel market is practically empty. Since January, a. hartrodt has been looking for a customs expert for each of the offices in Liverpool and London-Heathrow. "Importing and exporting foodstuffs is particularly complicated because health certificates are also required," explains Russ.
The Brexit is overshadowed by Corona: According to the Bank of England, the gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter was 8.75 percent lower than before the pandemic. For 2021, however, the central bank has raised its GDP growth forecast to 7.25 percent. But Russ expects that customs clearance still won't run smoothly by the end of the year.