United Kingdom flag United Kingdom: Buying and Selling

International convention and customs procedures of the United Kingdom

The information in this section is subject to change and regular updating during the UK's post-Brexit transition period. We will publish the updated information as soon as it becomes available.
International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party to the International Coffee Agreement
International Economic Cooperation
The United Kingdom is a member of the following international economic organisations: IMF, Commonwealth, G-5, G-8, G-10, G-20, ICC, WHO, OECD, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates the United Kingdom click here. International organisation membership of the United Kingdom is also outlined here.
Non Tariff Barriers

Several goods are subject to specific controls and requirements. Goods subject to import controls under the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) include firearms, anti-personnel mines, and certain nuclear and chemical goods. Some industrial goods need import licences as a result of controls imposed at national or UN level, which are issued by the Department for International Trade’s Import Licensing Branch(firearms, goods subject to import sanctions, etc.). The ILB also issues Certificates of Free Sale (CFS) to UK exporters, mostly for products that come into contact with humans (e.g. cosmetics), from countries that have lower product safety standards and enforcement than the UK. Other government departments issue CFS for certain products including the:

  • Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for goods that come into contact with animals (such as veterinary medicines)
  • Department of Health for medicines
  • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for medical devices
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for biocides
  • Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for food, drinks or supplements.


Consult the dedicated page on the UK government’s platform to check whether goods need to be declared to UK customs. For a list of goods subject to import controls, click here.


Furthermore, from 1 January 2021 Brexit became effective and therefore trade relations between the EU and the UK are governed from now on by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. To preserve their mutually beneficial trading relationship, the EU and the UK have agreed to create an ambitious free trade area with no tariffs or quotas on products, regulatory and customs cooperation mechanisms, as well as provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as part of a larger economic partnership. The Agreement prevents unnecessary technical barriers to trade, e.g. by providing for self-declaration of regulatory compliance for low-risk products and facilitations for other specific products of mutual interest, such as automotive, wine, organics, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. However, all UK goods entering the EU will still have to meet the EU’s high regulatory standards, including on food safety (e.g. sanitary and phytosanitary standards) and product safety. FTA conditions are not the same as those of the EU Customs Union and the Single Market. In particular:

  • Rules of origin will apply to goods in order to qualify for preferential trade terms under the agreement;
  • The Agreement includes a Technical Barriers to Trade Chapter which builds on the WTO TBT agreement and addresses regulatory barriers to trade between the UK and EU (provisions on technical regulation, conformity assessment, standardisation, accreditation, market surveillance and marking and labelling);
  • The Agreement includes a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Chapter which ensures that the UK and the EU can maintain fully independent SPS rules to protect human, animal and plant life and health, preserving each Party’s right to independently regulate, while not creating unjustified barriers to trade.

For the list of goods imported into Great Britain from the EU that are subject to customs controls, click here.

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
From 1 January 2021, the UK will apply a UK-specific tariff to imported goods.  This UK Global Tariff (UKGT) will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff, which applies until 31 December 2020.
Use the UK Global Tariff tool to check the tariffs that will apply to goods you import from 1 January 2021. The existing commodity code system will continue to apply from 1 January 2021 onwards.

More detailed Customs tariffs can be found at this government website.
Customs Classification
The UK HS  Tariff Code helps to find commodity names with codes for exporting and importing  goods. In order to find a HS code, it is possible to use the Trade Tariff tool, which will show you the import and export codes, and any information connected to the code, such as: if you need a license to move your goods or if there’s a tariff quota.
Import Procedures
The Brexitguidance ended on 31 December 2020 and new rules applying for businesses and citizens in the EU and the UK came into force on 1 January 2021. Since 1 January 2021, businesses in England, Wales and Scotland must make customs declarations when importing goods from the EU, as well as checking that they have the appropriate import licences and certificates and finally obtain an EORI number to move goods between the EU and UK.

Since 1 January 2021, the UK applies the Guidance on tariffs on goods imported into the UK , which replaces the EU’s Common External Tariff. For more information about the tariffs applied to imports coming into the UK since 1 January 2021, please visit the UK government's website.

For an overview of the impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the Single Market and EU Customs Union will have in the areas of taxation and customs, consult the UK government's dedicated guidance Import, export and customs for businesses: detailed information. For further details on actions required from businesses to continue importing from EU countries, please visit the UK government platform as well as the European Commission's guidance EU-UK: A new relationship including sectorial guidance notices for different sectors and the guide ‘BREXIT Readiness Checklist’ for companies doing business with the UK. For guidance on moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, click here.

Importing Samples
It is possible to import goods deemed to be of negligible value, such as commercial samples, free of duty and VAT. For further information visit the HM Revenue and Customs page on VAT and duties exemptions.

To go further, check out our service Import controls and Export controls.

For Further Information
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

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Latest Update: July 2024