Brexit Bites, 1 April 2021

Apr 01, 2021


This week’s Brexit Bites looks at the EU’s new import control system ICS2 as well as a €1 billion package to finance customs controls in the EU, an update from Revenue on recent PBN easements as well as details of letters sent by HMRC to VAT registered businesses in Great Britain that trade goods with the EU.  

EU launches first phase of new import control system – ICS2

The European Commission has launched a new import control system (ICS2) that will reinforce the Customs Union’s “first line of defence” against safety and security threats posed by illegal goods. The phase of the ICS2 will focus on postal and express consignments coming to or through the EU by air.

The system will then be applied to all modes of cargo transport which is at the heart of the reform of the EU’s Customs Pre-arrival Safety and Security programme. The ICS2 will gradually replace the existing import control system in three releases between 15 March 2021 and 1 March 2024.

Read more about ICS2 in the eCustoms Helpdesk notification which was published recently on the Revenue website.

€1 billion package to finance customs controls in EU

The European Parliament and EU Member States provisionally agreed to make €1 billion available for EU countries to buy, upgrade and maintain customs control equipment such as x-ray scanners and automated number plate detection systems. 

The Customs Control Equipment Instrument for 2021-2027 addresses calls from Member States for support in financing detection equipment that help control goods crossing the EU’s external borders. The agreement will now be subject to formal confirmation by the European Parliament and the Council.  Read more.

Update from Revenue on PBN easement

Revenue was made aware that traders were experiencing difficulties with the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) and granted an easement on 25 and 26 March whereby those availing of the transit fallback procedure could create their Pre-Boarding Notification (PBN) using the EMPTY option.

As full functionality has been available in the NCTS system for several days, Revenue is reminding traders that the PBN easement was granted solely for those impacted by the specific issue that arose on 25 and 26 March and that this option is not to be used in normal circumstances.  All traders should by now have resumed creating their PBN in the normal way and including the transit MRN.

Letters to businesses about importing and exporting goods between Great Britain and the EU

HMRC have recently sent  letters to VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU, highlighting the new rules and actions to take for importing goods from or exporting goods to the EU.

These letters have been sent to VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU, or the EU and the rest of the world. They explain what businesses need to do to comply with the new rules and processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU, including:

  • making sure they have a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
  • ensuring they are ready to make customs declarations
  • checking if their goods are eligible for the preferential zero duty rates
  • preparing for the end of staged import controls on 1 January 2022

Issues accessing the EU’s VIES system – NI traders 

HMRC are aware of problems some NI businesses operating under the NI Protocol and trading with the EU are having accessing the EU’s VAT Information Exchange System (VIES), a system used to confirm the VAT registration numbers in other EU states. 

If your business has not received a letter from HMRC and has not notified HMRC that you are operating under the NI Protocol, you will need to take action to apply for an XI VAT number by completing and returning a G form. The XI VAT number is required to ensure the correct tax is paid when trading under the NI Protocol. There is no requirement for the business to be located in NI. The guidance and registration process can be found at GOV.UK.

If you are a business with an XI VAT number, you should have access to VIES and we would encourage readers to check this.

If you continue to experience difficulties, please email us at