The UK has revealed it will not be implementing full border checks on goods coming in from the European Union from January 2021 and will instead favour a more gradual approach to its post-Brexit schedule.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said he appreciates that the coronavirus pandemic combined with Brexit-related disruption could pose a significant challenge for businesses as this year's transition period comes to an end.
Previously, it had been planned that goods travelling to Britain from the EU would face the same customs checks as those arriving from other nations, thereby affecting "almost everybody" who imports from Europe, Mr Gove said.
Whether there were tariffs or not, customs controls had been expected from January, on top of other regulatory checks.
Now, though, ministers are putting in place new flexible arrangements that mean only controlled goods will face immediate checks and VAT payments may be deferred until after goods have arrived.
It is believed the rules will be in place for six months to help those businesses that have taken a hit as a result of the pandemic.
Under the new regime, companies importing standard goods from January will need to prepare for basic customs requirements and will have six months to complete customs declarations. They must pay tariffs on all imports, but may defer this until the customs declaration has been made.
From April 2021, pre-notification and the relevant health documentation will be needed on all products of animal origin and all regulated plants and plant products.
Finally, as of July, companies moving any kind of goods into the UK will have to make declarations at the point of import and pay the relevant tariffs.
"As we take back control of our laws and our borders at the end of this year, we will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to help business adjust to the changes and opportunities of being outside the single market and the customs union," a UK government spokesperson said.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the Border Delivery Group, which is overseeing plans for the UK border after the transition period, will now be known as the Border and Protocol Delivery Group.