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Brexit grace periods: what rules will change and when?

Although the EU transition period officially came to an end on 31st December 2020, not every rule has come into place yet. This is due to several grace periods, agreed under the UK-EU TCA or decided by the UK government, to allow businesses to transition towards the new processes smoothly.

While many companies are still adjusting to the rules that have already begun following Brexit, it is essential to be on top of upcoming changes as the respective grace periods end. By doing so, you can undertake adequate preparations in your operations and ensure full compliance with regulations.

In our guide, we have listed the current grace periods active in the UK, when they come to an end and how your business may be affected.

Import documentation

While UK exports to the EU have needed complete customs declarations and other relevant documentation, it has not applied to imports arriving in the UK. This is due to a phased approach to border checks by the government to ease the pressure on businesses importing goods into the country.

Since January, full customs declarations are needed to import controlled goods (such as alcohol). Any other goods have required simplified customs declarations, though traders need to record their imports if deferring their declarations.

From January 2022, complete documentation will be required on imports to the UK. Declarations need to be made on import for all products, rather than deferred as is currently allowed. Some businesses may be eligible for simplified procedures, however.

On top of customs declarations, tariffs will apply to relevant goods. Currently, traders can defer tariff payments on goods (up to six months after import). So, it is essential to check if there are tariffs on any goods you intend to import. You may also want to check if you are eligible for deferment even after January 2022.

Finally, from January next year, you will also need UK entry summaries on all imports. Currently, an EU exit summary must be completed by your supplier when they dispatch your order, but this will be required in conjunction with the UK entry summary. You will need software to supply this declaration, unless you are using a recognised provider, so make sure you are prepared.

Border controls

As with import documentation, there has been a phased approach to checks on EU exports coming into the UK. Currently, these only apply to high-risk live animals and plants.

From October of this year, pre-notification will be required on all imported animal origin products (meat, fish, eggs and dairy) using the IPAFFS system. From 1st January 2022, these goods will require physical checks when entering the UK.

There will be an increase in physical checks on imports entering the UK from January, which will apply to all goods at GB Border Control Posts from this time. For low-risk plants, plant products and live animals, physical checks will not come into place until 1st March 2022 at Border Control Posts, though pre-notification of these goods will be introduced from 1st January.

Due to the increased checks, it will be vital that you follow processes and supply the proper documentation, as do your EU suppliers, to ensure your goods can smoothly move across the border and to your business.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland grace period has been of some controversy lately. The agreement between the UK and the EU was that new certification and customs processes for food and parcels passing through Northern Ireland would begin in April. However, the government has extended this to October without agreement from the EU, who have responded with legal action.

With this decision, from October, businesses in Northern Ireland will have to comply with new rules when importing products from Great Britain. Presently, these businesses do not need to meet the EU’s standard certification requirements, such as live animals and animal products. On high-risk products of this nature, certificates came into force from February, and from October, they will apply to all animal goods.

Further information about moving goods from GB to NI can be viewed here.

It’s also worth noting that there is a 12-month grace period for medicines, meaning these products will not be subject to full regulation until January 2022.


The UK’s new, points-based immigration system came into action on 1st January 2021 as we left the European Union. While this system already applies to anyone looking to move to the UK from abroad, the EU Settlement Scheme doesn’t end until 30th June.

Once the EUSS ends, any EU nationals who do not possess appropriate settlement status will no longer be legally able to live and work in the UK. This means they could face being evicted from homes, dismissed from their jobs and even deported.

To coincide with the end of the EU Settlement Scheme, new right to work checks will need to be undertaken when hiring citizens from abroad. You won’t need to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees, but it’s essential to be aware of the changes for any new workers you recruit.

Conformity marking

Another significant change brought by Brexit was the conformity markings required on certain products. Previously, all goods had to carry a CE marking which would allow them to be sold on both EU and UK markets.

However, with the UK no longer part of the EU, goods will have to carry the appropriate mark for the market they are being sold to. For EU markets, this means a CE mark, but it requires a UKCA mark for GB markets. Some goods may also need a UKNI mark if sold in Northern Ireland but assessed by a UK body. To get these marks, goods may also have to undergo different conformity procedures. You can find out more about this in our blog.

There is currently a transition period that allows UK businesses to use CE marks instead of a UKCA mark. From 1st January 2022, any goods placed on the market will need to carry the correct mark. Some goods, such as ‘old approach’ goods, have a longer grace period. This can be temporarily affixed, but from January 2023, it will need to be permanent. This gives businesses time to adapt to the conformity procedures and ensure their stock carries the appropriate marking.

Rules of origin

A critical part of the UK-EU TCA was the rules of origin. Under these rules, goods being exported to the EU must be made of at least 45% EU or UK parts. This particularly applies to manufactured products and the automotive industry. If goods fail to meet the UK/EU parts threshold, a 10% tariff will be subject upon import.

The UK and EU agreed on a one-year grace period before businesses were required to provide evidence regarding rules of origin. Businesses are advised to keep documentation about the source of parts they use, but no evidence needs to be supplied regarding origin until 1st January 2022. After this point, companies will need to ensure they have proof of origin when exporting products.

For many businesses, rules of origin will affect the supplies they use to manufacture goods. Due to this, it’s essential to be aware of the implication now so that you may adjust your plans accordingly and ensure you are meeting the threshold from 2022 to avoid tariffs.


Although many businesses may be pre-occupied with the existing consequences of Brexit on their operations, it is equally vital to look at the horizon and prepare for future changes to come once the various grace periods come to an end.

With new processes still set to take hold across import, recruitment, conformity, and origin rules, the impact will be felt by many firms in the coming months.

If you need guidance for your company regarding either existing or upcoming process changes, our team of advisors can help. We provide tailored advice for your business in its post-Brexit preparations to empower you to navigate any challenges.