BREXIT: The New European Scenario

The European Union ended the year 2020 with breaking news. It was the agreement reached “in extremis” with the United Kingdom on the management of trade relations after 1st January 2021; the date on which, after approximately 4 years of extensions and postponements, BREXIT would finally enter into force.  

After arduous negotiations, on 24th December, Ursula Von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) and Boris Johnson (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) announced that an agreement had been reached, avoiding so the much feared “Hard Brexit” or “extreme Brexit”, whereby the United Kingdom would leave the European Union without a previous agreement.

There is no doubt that the close trade relations that exist between the two territories have produced significant pressure which has led to this final agreement. In any case, whether by means of a global agreement or by means of sectoral agreements, trade relations with the United Kingdom would ultimately be signed since UK is a vital trading partner for the European Union. In fact, for Spain, the United Kingdom is the fifth in the scale of its trading partners, moving (between imports and exports) over 32 billion Euros during 2019. 

The importance of this agreement arises, to a certain extent, from the fact that thanks to it, bilateral trade relations can be maintained without customs duties or quotas, an aspect that is of particular interest to exporters and importers, but which in general affects the whole society, since the costs to be assumed in import operations, as well as in export operations, will always have an impact on the final cost and customer. However, this agreement does not prevent bureaucratic, administrative, and fiscal procedures from being multiplied due to this departure. Examples of it are customs declarations, sanitary and phytosanitary controls, and the payment of VAT on the declared value of the goods at the time of import.

In other words, since 1st January 2021 the United Kingdom is a third country for the European Union, and as it happens with goods entering and leaving third countries outside the EU, the Spanish Customs Authorities will have to ensure that they are informed on and have control of the goods that are to be introduced into their territory and, consequently, into the European Union. 

This information about entries and exits will generally be provided by the company carrying out the transport of the goods (shipping companies, airlines, or land carriers) and must coincide with the presented customs declarations. In fact, efficiency and speed in the transmission of this information will be key to facilitating border formalities and thus avoiding discontinuities and delays, which for now are unavoidable. Companies that usually trade with importers or exporters from third countries outside the Union are already aware of the formalities required for these operations.

 

TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROPEAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMUNITY, ON THE ONE HAND, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND, ON THE OTHER HAND

With respect to the Agreement reached, we would like to highlight its second part, which includes aspects related to trade, transport, fishing and other provisions that are of interest to our sector with the aim of facilitating trade of goods between the parties and maintaining liberalized trade to the extent agreed in the Agreement. 

To this end, different aspects are addressed, such as:

  1. The recognition of the freedom of transit through their territories to persons with nationality of either Party. 
  2. The prohibition of customs duties, that is, a Party may not adopt or maintain any duties, taxes and other charges imposed on the exportation of a good to the other Party or in connection with such exportation, or any tax that is higher than the tax or charge that would be imposed on similar goods but destined for domestic consumption. 
  3. With respect to taxes and charges, the Parties may not assess these amounts ad valorem, but may simply charge such taxes and charges limited in amount to the cost of the services rendered and shall not constitute indirect protection of domestic products. There are exceptions for some specific services.
  4. Agree that the Parties may not impose restrictions, prohibitions or monopolies on imports or exports of goods destined for the territory of the other Party (except Article 11 of the GATT 1994). 
  5. That each Party shall determine in its territory the customs value of the goods of the other Party. 
  6. To create rules for determining the origin of goods for the purposes of applying preferential tariff treatment and to establish origin procedures. 
  7. Agree on the sanitary and phytosanitary measures to be applied on goods imported into the Parties to this Agreement. 
  8. Ensure customs cooperation for trade simplification. To this end, measures such as the rapid release of goods, the presentation and advance electronic processing of documentation, the promotion of the association of authorized economic operators, the establishment of the single window, the facilitation of roll-on-roll-off traffic, etc., are taken. 

Although this agreement regulates many aspects of interest for the sector, there are other things that it does not resolve and that are fundamental for the correct development of commercial relations. In particular, we would like to make special mention of the exequatur or recognition of foreign judgments, as well as the jurisdiction applicable in the resolution of disputes between the Parties. 

Given the transcendence that an incorrect choice of the applicable jurisdiction may imply for the subjects involved in international trade operations, from AIYON Abogados we would like to recommend all agents involved in trade with the United Kingdom, before starting a new commercial relationship, to make express agreements where the jurisdiction to which they will submit their disputes is agreed. In case of pre-existing commercial relations, we recommend analysing whether the jurisdiction agreed upon at the time is still the best for the defence of their present and future commercial interests.