SME Brexit Support Fund launched

Smaller businesses can now apply for grants of up to £2,000 to help them adapt to new customs and tax rules when trading with the EU

The £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund, launched on 16th March 2021, enables traders to access practical support, including training for new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes. This announcement follows the previous week’s news that Phases 2 and 3, relating to the change in customs arrangements, have been delayed.

The SME Brexit Support Fund is only available to eligible SMEs who import from or export to the EU and Northern Ireland. It is not accessible by Customs Agents or Intermediaries.

Support Grants can be used for training on:

  • How to complete customs declarations
  • How to manage customs processes and use customs software and systems
  • Specific import and export related aspects including VAT, excise and rules of origin

For further information, visit the PWC website FAQ page here.

Grants can also be used to help you get professional advice so your business can meet its customs, excise, import, VAT or safety and security declaration requirements. VARTAN has the training material and expertise to provide this training and advice – if you need help or just need a discussion to understand your options and how this training could help your business, then please get in touch.




UK-EU Deal: How to claim preferential rates of duty

UK EU Trade deal

The UK and the EU finally agreed a post-Brexit trade deal on Christmas Eve

On 1 January 2021, the UK will leave the Single Market and Customs Union and freedom of movement will end, being replaced instead by the new “Trade and Cooperation Agreement”.

The EU called the deal a “fair and balanced agreement” while Prime Minister Johnson said it would mean Britain would “take back control”.

The Prime Minister described the deal as the “Canada-style” agreement he has previously advocated and claimed it would be worth an estimated £668 billion to the bloc and to the UK.

In the key area of trade, from 1 January, if your goods originate in the EU or UK, preferential rates of duty can apply on importation. This means they’ll be free of Customs Duty.

To benefit from preferential rates when importing into the UK from the EU (or importing into the EU from the UK), the importer will be required to declare they hold proof that the goods comply with the rules of origin.

The UK Government has issued guidance on claiming preferential rates of duty. This covers rules of origin, proof of origin and how to claim the preferential rate of duty. You can find this guidance on the UK Government website here.

At VARTAN we provide Customs Training tailored to suit your business, so contact us and talk to our experts; they can help you navigate the new deal and steer you in the right direction.


And don’t forget that Government funding is still available (although it’s nearing full allocation) via the Customs Grant Scheme – established to help businesses prepare for the new customs arrangements.


Government publishes updated GB-EU Border Operating Model


The UK Government has ramped up preparations for the end of the transition period by publishing an updated Border Operating Model, which provides further detail on how the GB-EU border will work and the actions that traders, hauliers and passengers need to take.

The updated Border Operating Model gives traders further information on the changes and opportunities they need to prepare for as a result of the UK leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. These steps will be needed regardless of whether the UK reaches a trade agreement with the EU.

Key points of the updated Border Operating Model include:

  • Mapping out the intended locations of inland border infrastructure. The sites will provide the necessary additional capacity to carry out checks on freight.
  • An announcement that passports will be required for entry into the UK from October 2021 as the Government phases out the use of EU, EEA and Swiss national identity cards as a valid travel document for entry to the UK.
  • Confirmation, after extensive engagement with industry, that a Kent Access Permit will be mandatory for HGVs using the short strait channel crossings in Kent. The easy-to-use ‘Check an HGV’ service will allow hauliers to check if they have the correct customs documentation and obtain a Kent Access Permit.

In a further move to support the customs intermediaries sector, the Government is also announcing that it will exercise an exemption within EU state aid rules to increase the amount of support that businesses can access from the Customs Grant Scheme. To date, the Government has provided more than £80m in funding to support the customs intermediary sector with training, new IT and recruitment.

You can find the official news story on the UK Government website which includes a link to the updated Border Operating Manual itself.

If you’d like to discuss this news, or trading with the EU more generally, please contact us.

UK and Japan agree historic trade agreement

UK strikes trade deal with Japan

The UK has secured a free trade agreement with Japan, which is the UK’s first major trade deal as an independent trading nation.

The government says that the deal (agreed in principle on Friday 11th September) is tailored to the UK economy and secures additional benefits beyond the EU-Japan trade deal, giving UK companies exporting to Japan a competitive advantage in a number of areas.

The deal is also being seen as an important step towards joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This would give UK businesses a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region..

You can read more details of the deal on the Institute of Export website and the UK Government website.

If you’d like to discuss this news, or trading with the Asia-Pacific region more generally, please contact us.


£50m grant scheme now open

Applications are now open to access £50m of funding to boost UK customs intermediaries

[Update 17 March 2021: This grant scheme is now closed]

HMRC and PWC have announced that intermediaries can now apply for funding from the £50m grant scheme in order to increase their capacity to make customs declarations and to help meet increased demand at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021.

HMRC have acted on feedback from stakeholders and applicants and changed the structure of the grant scheme in order to improve it.

Eligible organisations include those that operate as, or intend to operate as:

  • Customs intermediaries (such as customs brokers, fast parcel operators and freight forwarders);
  • Traders who make their own customs declarations; and
  • Organisations which recruit, train and place apprentices into businesses to undertake customs declarations.

Your organisation must also have been established in the UK for at least 12 months prior to application.

The grant supports:

  • Costs associated with recruitment and hiring of new employees to complete customs declarations or other declarations required to complete customs processes;
  • Training costs for organisations who complete customs declarations; and
  • Funding for IT which is directly related to increasing capacity or productivity within the customs brokerage function.

Applications are considered on a first come, first served basis. The scheme is currently set to run until 30 June 2021, or when the funds are allocated. Early applications are encouraged to avoid disappointment.

If you have an open application that you have created but not yet submitted, you have until 5 August 2020 to do so.

For further information, visit the PWC website FAQ page here.

If you are a grant holder looking for a customs training provider, we can design a training package specifically for your business. Please visit our Customs Training page, or contact us for more details.

HMRC updates guidance on AEO

HMRC has updated their guidance on AEO, adding clarity to the application process itself.

The HMRC Guidance page, ‘Check if Authorised Economic Operator status could benefit you‘ is an excellent summary of the benefits of AEO and how to apply.

Since the launch of AEO back in 2008, VARTAN has proudly supported over 100 companies in acheiving their AEO accreditations. Understanding HMRC’s expectations allows VARTAN’s experts to mitigate any risks or issues that could impede an application.

If you’d like to discuss AEO’s benefits and the application process, please contact us.