I’m coming to the end of my contract working with Media Powerhouse as a project coordinator. This wasn’t my usual gig but I met their technical project manager Callum while working on my last client project. What I thought would be a project management role turned into a project coordination and administration role with a lot of emphasis on ramping up tools to deal with exporting equipment and moving people in and out of Europe. I had lots of experience on the people side and bureaucracy is something I’ve dealt with my whole career but this was next level stuff. Working on understanding post-Brexit export procedures while working with a client in events/logistics is like building a plane as you learn to fly it. It’s also a sector full of really very very nice adrenaline junkies which reminded me of working with finance folks. Everything is done on the phone, on text messages, Whatsapp groups and only important stuff gets emailed if ever. I had to build resources with the tools people would accept easily ie. Microsoft products and keep things extra simple.
Here’s what I learnt and hopefully is useful to a UK business looking to export products permanently to Europe for the first time:
- You’ll need to apply for an EORI number
- You’ll need what’s known as an authorised representative in Europe who represents you if you’re selling products that fail in the home/business of a EU citizen. This is for legal compliance and insurance purposes.
- You’ll need to decide who pays customs duty (you or your buyer) and when (at the border, after you enter the country) so you can choose the right transportation option. We use Europa Flow as a freight partner but there are plenty of others out there. Just make sure you ask for the right mode and have agreed this in writing with your client.
- Duty rates vary according to the product type (called a commodity code) and origin of manufacture. I don’t master the mechanics of this yet but the nice people at Customsconnect can help declare the right HS code for the right product so duty bills are as low as they can be.
- HS codes expire and change all the time, your freight partner’s customs team will tell you but you probably want to keep an eye on this yourself. I wish gov.uk had a newsletter with updates you could sign up to but they don’t. Sigh.
- If your tech products have a rubber-based component, you’ll have to sign a phytosanitary declaration. This usually applies to anyone selling food and live stock but also applies to anything that uses natural materials.
- You’ll need to capture and declare the country of manufacture, net weight, gross weight (when packaged) any technical certificates (known as an EU declaration of conformity) and packaging type for every product you send. Lots of other bits are required too but I found these were the most fiddly to gather. I made a template you’re welcome to use.
- You’ll need to make sure the gross weight of your items when declared individually, adds up to the weight of your goods on pallets. I don’t know how to do this other than by adjusting my declaration to include the weight of the pallets themselves. This makes the whole process pretty manual but it works. Note that some freight companies aren’t interested in the gross weight and only focus on net weight. I have no idea why this discrepancy exists.
- The declaration that is sent to a freight partner so they can process this for you includes: a commercial invoice, a commodity report and your technical certificates. So everything you gather based on the template I shared will end up being useful across those three outputs. You’ll need to do these every time you send something across a border.
If you have any questions, the government’s own Department for International Trade is there but I learnt most of it by talking to friends and Google searches. Maybe one day we’ll rejoin Europe and this will have all been for nought. In the meantime, better get used to it. If you already know how to do all this, why don’t you take over from me when I leave?