Brexit: Finance Ministry boosting information resources and customs capacity

Following the end of the transition period, with effect from 31 December 2020 the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the internal market and thus also no longer a member of the joint Customs Union. Negotiations on future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom were successfully concluded on 24 December 2020 with an agreement on trade. This Agreement will be applied on a provisional basis by the EU with effect from 1 January 2021 until completion of the formal internal legislative processes. The trade agreement covers all goods originating in the European Union and the United Kingdom which comply with common product standards.

"We never wanted Brexit, but nevertheless, we have of course prepared ourselves for this moment. While the UK is leaving the European Union, it is not leaving the European continent, and both sides will in future remain trading partners. We have done our homework in order to support Austrian business in these circumstances as effectively as possible," remarked Finance Minister Gernot Blümel on the effects of the Brexit deal.

The Ministry of Finance and in particular the Customs Administration have made thorough preparations for the end of the transition period. For example, the 'BREXIT Customs Hotline' was launched back on 1 December 2020; this will be operated by the Customs Information Office in collaboration with the other customs agencies. In addition, the Ministry of Finance has set up a Brexit area on its website which provides regularly-updated information relevant to customs matters. It also provides a list of FAQs with answers to numerous frequently asked questions. Moreover, the website offers a range of links to information provided by the United Kingdom's most important EU neighbours.

With effect from 1 January 2021, the Customs Administration is anticipating an increase in the volume of freight processing of up to 10%, as well as additional costs, since prohibitions and restrictions will lead to the necessity of an increased number of controls, and a greater number of attempts at fraud. In the case of customs clearance for postal consignments and express delivery services, an increase of up to 30% is expected.

The Customs Administration has made preparations for this by taking the following targeted measures:

  • Staff will be available to provide flexible assistance on a regional basis and, if required, also nationwide
  • Additional training will be provided for staff at the Customs Information Office in Villach, since an increased number of enquiries is expected to be received there
  • Intensive information exchange with freight forwarding agents and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) – joint training with the Economic Chamber has already taken place

The Brexit information area is available on the Finance Ministry website at bmf.gv.at/brexit. The Brexit Customs Hotline can be reached by e-mail at zollinfo@bmf.gv.at as well as by telephone from Monday to Friday between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM on +43 (0) 50 233 728. The Finance Ministry requests that enquiries be made by e-mail where possible.