Export to thrive

Survival of the export fittest

Whether you’ve been importing or exporting this year, you will have experienced the highs and lows of the impacts from our exit from the EU in December 2020. As we go from survival to revival, getting to grips with the complex and often expensive routes to market has tested most businesses to the limit. But where are we a year on? Getting better at it? Given up? Embraced the change?

Whatever your view, the UK Government has woken up to the fact that this hasn’t been the year businesses felt supported outside of measures for Covid and is now providing more support and help for businesses in plainer terms. Here we summarise some of the key updates every business should be aware of and importantly, where to find further support.

Trade Show Support

With news the TAP programme was cancelled in 2021, trade associations across the UK united in uproar about the limiting factors this would place on SME’s across the UK. In late November, the Department for International Trade announced the new UK Tradeshow Programme for SME’s. Promising a raft of support and training, at the time of writing the list of supported events had not yet been published but PM is aware the support is limited. Grants are from £2,000 to £4,000 to help cover costs such as stand build, conference fees, promotional material but will be limited to companies who have not received funding previously or can demonstrate they are expanding in to a brand new territory. PM has also been told businesses are eligible for just one crack at funding for the entirety of the new programme meaning the precise criteria is very strict. Businesses looking to exhibit can apply after 30 November and if you are looking to visit, applications will be from January 2022 onwards. Businesses looking to apply must be between £250,000 – £5 million turnover, be first time applicants or can prove they look to grow exports in new markets.

The BPMA noted ‘After the TAP funding was cancelled with no consultation, we have been waiting to hear from Department of International Trade about what they plan to do. Their communications are very clear; this funding is limited and to ensure our industry gets a slice of any funding, we’ll need to be on our toes once the approved list is released so we can help members secure much needed funding’.

Northern Ireland Protocol and Trader Support Service

PM has been waiting for some time to update on the situation with the protocol; will they or won’t they activate article 16… there is no doubt the situation has been confused, frustrating and more. Businesses must be registered with the free to use Trader Support Service or TSS. With details available via tradersupportservice.co.uk, the TSS will raise declarations on your behalf for free. Required for those who are moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. You can make your own arrangements however its recommended business save time and money by using the TSS. With free training and support, this service is starting to be used more frequently and the Northern Ireland Customs & Trade Academy is a great place to start – details can be found at nicustomstradeacademy.co.uk.

Supplementary Declarations

Bringing goods into the UK requires various declarations and for goods brought into GB from the EU, declarations must be made no later than 175 days after you’ve imported goods into Great Britain. Recommended to get someone to deal with these on your behalf, many carriers will include this job within their communication.

Customs declarations on EU to GB imports are due 1st January with the Institute of Export (IOE) and Government this deadline won’t be postponed. Import customs declarations will be mandatory from 1st January 2022. The IOE recommend using a customs agent but reminded PM ‘You can complete these declarations yourself or use an agent BUT even if using an agent, the legal responsibility for accuracy of the data included falls to the importer.’ The BPMA work closely with the IOE and recommend their customs courses for any business needing to gain a deeper understanding of the complex rules. From the start of 2022, UK Customs authorities will require full customs declarations and checks to allow import shipments from EU into GB. There are serious concerns voiced towards EU companies preparing to send goods to the UK, with many believing the UK isn’t serious about the Border Operating Model. However, for anyone who is working with suppliers with an EU base supplying them, make sure they are aware or risk delays.

After the tsunami of carrier and courier problems since December 2020, no one wants to see any further delays or costs incurred. The IOE has constructed a new platform with the providers of the TSS, Fujitsu, to promote the Digital Trader Service – a fee based service to aid import paperwork.


In the March 2021 budget, the UK government announced eight new freeports: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, The Humber region, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, The Solent The Thames, Teesside.

What is a ‘freeport’? UK ‘Freeports’ are a series of government-assigned special economic zones where customs rules and some taxes do not apply until goods leave the specified zone. Government provide customs and trade help desk to support businesses in freeport and local economy. The location of the freeport provides access point for global or regional supply chains e.g. deep sea hub from Rest of World (ROW) and short sea crossing to EU, meaning creation of new business and industries e.g. manufacturing, food production and clean energy. In addition, application of different customs status e.g. customs warehousing, inward processing, outward processing is possible through these sites. The Government believes these freeports will increase supply chain visibility and use examples such as being able to transfer goods from one free trade zone to another without paying customs duties.

Exporting: the headache of ‘no customer to invoice’

Still the greatest challenge for those sending goods to an EU destination with no ‘invoiceable’ customer, the BPMA is still battling with getting a clear route for its members to address the non-transactional nature of merchandise. CEO Carey Trevill comments ‘HM Revenue & Customs have been helpful but they just don’t get this transaction and as EU VAT is of no interest to our Government, there is no clear solution. It’s like both sides forgot about the gifting aspect of so many industries when exporting goods between GB and EU leaving our members with costs and complexity.’

Helplines have evolved

Overall, Government advice has improved a little with the very late introduction of a helpline and webchat service via digital assistance. Businesses can call the Import and Export helpline 7 days a week on 0300 322 9434 or go to the Gov.uk website to use the digital assistant. This new service does tackle general questions and you have the option of webchat – good for the inexperienced or infrequent exporter and importer. The BPMA have also changed benefit providers for member helplines, switching to a provider who provides some export and VAT advice that members can access free of charge within membership.

Keeping an eye on customs and trading

PM will be issuing export and import updates in forthcoming issues and recommends readers register with updates with Department of International Trade under great.gov.uk and helpful updates from the IOE at export.org. BPMA members can also access a raft of helpful information and checklists when logged in at bpma.co.uk.


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