Published 14.01.2021
Updated 03.03.2021

There are two main sticking points and by knowing about them now you can help to avoid the delays and frustrations when you need to transport your goods to or from the EU.Firstly, a lot of customs agents (details below) are dealing with live roadfreight declarations for the first time and we are being told of huge backlogs already for some agents for UK Export declarations.

Secondly, a lot of shippers are having to create a commercial invoice (details below) for the first time, these documents can be complex and their complexity is partly the cause of the above mentioned backlog.

To help you, below is a guide to some of the current pinch points and guidance on how to avoid them followed by some useful links.

Customs agents:

Scenario A – Sending small numbers of Pallets

You are Importing or Exporting a small number of pallets to/from the continent.

The vehicle carrying your goods over the UK/EU frontier will also likely be carrying goods for multiple customers on a service called Groupage (nobody outside of Freight uses this term).

Groupage hauliers generally have the means to handle the Export and the Import clearance; negating the need for you to engage a customs broker. If you are Exporting from the UK you will pay the freight charges plus a Customs Clearance fee of around £35.

NOTE: Your customer on the continent will receive a contact from the local customs agent. It is likely that your customer will need to complete a form giving Power of Attorney to the customs agent to make the Import declaration. They will then have to pay any charges due which could be: Import declaration fee Circa €45, VAT equivalent, Duty if aplicable. This part of the process is causing delays – plesae ask your customer to act quickly when contacted to keep goods moving.

Scenario B – Full Loads

You are Exporting a full lorry load of goods from the UK to Germany. It is likely that your UK haulier or forwarder will have a relationship with a customs broker who can do the export declaration for you (although right now they may be backlogged as mentioned above). If not you will need to engage the services of a customs agent to do the declaration for you at a cost starting at around £40.

We recommend that you engage with your customer / partner receiving the goods and encourage them to enlist the services of a customs broker near to them who will complete the Import declaration also for a similar price.

The brokers’ details are entered onto the Commercial Invoice (see below) so the each party can perform their function.

If you are Importing the goods the same principles apply, each end should have a broker in place.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is different from a sales invoice as it has to include some specific details that allow customers brokers to make an accurate declaration. That said, if you are creating a commercial invoice for the first time your sales invoice is a good place to start as it will already contain much of the basic information required.

Elements required on a commercial invoice that cause the most difficulty.

EORI numbers

The basic rule is that you need two of these on the commercial invoice, one for the shipper and one for the receiver. If you already have a UK VAT number then your EORI number should be as follows: GB[your vat number here]000 and you can verify it here.

You can also verify any EU EORI number here and there is a comprehensive list of EU nations relevant authority websites at the bottom of this page if you need guidance on how to apply for one in each country.

At the moment we are being told that private individuals also need an EORI number (which seems onerous!) but the good news is that in the UK they are very quick and easy to obtain. If you need advice on getting an European EORI number I have listed the relevant local authority websites below for most of the EU nations.


These set out the legal position of each party in relation to who pays for what element of the freight and who is responsible for the goods during certain elements of the transit. There are many incoterms and these are very useful for Sea, Air and Multi modal freight where there are many elements to the transit however Continental land transit is usually a simpler affair.

The general consensus at the moment seems to be to use DAP if possible. DAP means that the seller is responsible for the delivery of the goods including transport costs to the named destination.

Commodity Codes / Tariffs

These act as an international language, used and understood by most nations around the world to describe the goods. By adding the commodity code for each separate type of item you are shipping, customs agents of any language can understand what the goods are. They are also used to determine what import duties and VAT rates apply however the last minute free trade agreement between the EU and UK means that the duty on the vast majority of goods is zero percent.

You can search for the appropriate commodity code here. A good rule of thumb is to ask: In basic terms, what is it? This should help you.

County of Origin

For each commodity you must note it’s country of origin. This is simple if it’s one item made in one place but complex if it’s made of components from various countries. There is also a question of processing / altering. If you have imported items from overseas and applied some processing to them, changing them in a major way, you can likely claim that the country of origin in the UK. If your process is minor the country of origin may be where you received them. It’s a tricky subject for some goods and in some cases a separate ‘declaration of origin’ may be required; at the moment we have no experience of these circumstances.

Other simple elements that are required that may not currently appear on your standard sales invoice are:

Itemised and gross weights

Individual packaging dimensions eg. 15 cartons of 35x36x45cm

Currency specified as GBP / EUR / USD etc.

Reason for Export

Commercial Invoice Basic Checklist:

  1. 2 x EORI numbers
  2. Clear address and contact details for each party
  3. Incoterms
  4. Country of origin for each commodity
  5. Commodity codes
  6. Net weight and Gross weight
  7. Description each commodity
  8. Packing details ie. 24 cartons on one pallet – give as much detail as possible
  9. Signature
  10. You may also be required to include the declaration below:

The exporter of the products covered by this document [enter your EORI here] declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of [enter your home terrotory here – likely UK] preferential origin.


Plastic pallets are acceptable and also  wooden pallets, provide they are treated and marked in compliance with ISPM 15

Personal Effects

At the moment we have not had any successes sending Personal Effects to or From the EU as customs brokers are requiring two EORI numbers and private individuals don’t normally have these. It seems that private individuals can apply for an EORI number but at the moment we have not tested if this would be successful or not.

Inter-Company Stock Movement

If you wish to send some of your company’s own goods to the continent (or bring them in) it seems that you will likely need VAT Registration or Fiscal Representation in each territory. For some businesses this means setting up a company in the region however it looks like there are 3rd party companies that will offer these services for you.

VAT Registration will cost around £350 to set up and £125 per filing.

Fiscal Representation has more legal liabilities and seems more in-depth to set up.

Not all countries have the same level of requirements and a country by county details can be found here.

How to get a European EORI number


For information on how to get an Austrian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Belgian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Bulgarian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Croatian EORI number please see here.

Republic of Cyprus

For information on how to get a Cypriot EORI number please see here.

For information on how to get a Czech EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Danish EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get an Estonian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Finnish EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a French EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a German EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Greek EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Hungarian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get an Irish EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get an Italian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Latvian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a luxembourgian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Maltese EORI number please see here.

The Netherlands

For information on how to get a Dutch EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Polish EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Portuguese EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Romanian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Slovakian EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Spanish EORI number please see here.


For information on how to get a Sweedish EORI number please see here.


  • HMRC Customs & International Trade Helpline – 0300 322 9434
  • HMRC Imports and Exports General Enquiries – 0300 200 3700
  • National Supply Disruption Centre – 0800 915 9964
  • Fish Exports Helpline – 0330 159 1989
  • Import/export general enquiries can be made by calling 0300 200 3700.
  • Charity and Humanitarian Aid