This week the European Commission published its new Customs Union Action Plan. The plan sets out a series of measures that will be implemented over the next few years to bring improvements to the EU Customs Union procedures in order to make the process more efficient and secure.

Why is this important?

Within the EU Customs Union, Member States’ customs authorities are responsible for performing a wide range of controls before goods enter into free circulation in the EU customs territory. These are aimed at protecting both EU revenues and the security and safety, health and prosperity of EU citizens and businesses.  The Action Plan aims at making this both easier and more robust!

The Customs Action Plan focuses on four areas:

  • Effective risk management
  • Managing e-commerce
  • Promoting compliance
  • Ensuring that customs authorities act as one

Under these four headings there are 17 actions in the Customs Action Plan which are designed to complement the modernised legal framework, the Union Customs Code (UCC), which has been in place since 2016.

The overarching aim remains to be the creation of an interconnected and fully paperless customs environment by 2025 at the latest. The Customs Action Plan announces ways to take the Customs Union to the next level through key initiatives:

A new analytics hub: ensuring greater availability and use of data and analysis for customs purposes.

Strengthening obligations on payment service providers: To help fight cross-border tax and customs fraud, authorities will have access to data that is provided to tax authorities of Member States.

Single Window environment for customs: legitimate businesses will be able to complete their border formalities in one single portal.

A roll-out of modern and reliable customs equipment: Member States will have state-of-the-art customs control equipment to carry out better and more effective controls.

International customs cooperation: the EU will launch a comprehensive analysis of the Union’s system of international cooperation and mutual administrative cooperation in customs.

Reflection group: create a group of Member States and business representatives to help prepare for future crises and challenges.

Why does this matter if the UK has left the EU?

These improvements are important when we consider the UK is now out on its own and working to create the “world’s most effective border by 2025”. The EU and more importantly each of the member states will be moving towards an improved and more efficient border for intra-EU trade.

This is essentially a look at ‘what you could have had’ for the UK if it had remained part of the EUCU, or perhaps an indicator of the kind of customs arrangements the UK will need to establish to ensure alignment with a forward looking European Commission.