Brexit: See the latest updates here

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FAQs: Brexit & The Life Sciences Supply Chain

Have a look at some of the most frequently asked questions relating to Brexit.

  • How likely is a ‘hard Brexit’ and how would it affect the transportation of pharmaceutical materials?

    At this stage, it is very much looking like a ‘hard Brexit’.

    It would be prudent to work on the assumption that the UK will operate on WTO rules with the EU from January 2021.

    This means that full tariffs will be applied on imports to mainland EU countries - if you have a look at some of the tariff codes for your products on the HMRC tariff website you will start to get an idea how much duty/VAT may be payable. For import, the UK is staging a phased approach where full tariffs will not be applied on all goods. In addition, some materials such as animal by-products, which should in theory need full customs and inspections on arrival, will not be affected immediately (there is a list on the website which identifies materials in the “safe zone”).

    There will also be new licensing requirements, leading to potentially an increase in costs as they tend to incur additional fees at import (both to the UK and the EU). Storage charges may also be applied in January if borders are not ready for the change in export/import requirements. A lack of resources in these areas will also contribute to longer transit times post Brexit.

  • What are the recommended shipping dates post Brexit?

    If the transition period does end on 31 December 2020 as planned, then we would suggest trying to avoid shipping in the immediate lead up to Christmas and the New Year.

    This should help to ensure that you do not have shipments in transit during the changeover.

    Please be aware that Brexit, coupled with the usual higher than normal freight volumes during December and the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the air travel industry, is likely to make a significant difference to transit times.

    We will, of course, do everything we can to mitigate any risks, including delays, to your samples during these times.

    For any specific shipping dates for your respective region(s) please contact your local Biocair office.

  • What will happen to my imports/exports to/from the UK in the case of a no deal?

    In the case of a no deal, the UK would become a third-party country. This means that transactions are expected to carry similar requirements for consignments to and from countries outside the EU.

    There are no guarantees that this will be the case, but it is the most likely scenario.

    As a result, any goods entering the UK from the EU will require customs clearance. The same will apply to any goods being sent to EU countries – those will require customs clearance upon arrival into the destination country.

    Biocair provides a door-to-door service and will take care of customs clearance either in the UK or in the destination EU country, so both your imports and exports are covered. We can also produce customs-compliant invoices.

    Our Global Regulatory and Compliance Team will be able to inform you on what is required for any materials you are importing/exporting from/to the EU.

  • There may be longer transit times than standard, due to potential delays at customs for example. How can I prepare for them?

    We recommend that you start communicating to internal stakeholders that transit times and lead times to shipment are likely to increase.

    From our own experience, it is far better to operate a pre-approval model to verify import requirements on a shipment-by-shipment basis, rather than take risks with irreplaceable materials.

    To avoid any potential import delays, Biocair’s logistics experts will provide all destination countries with copies of the import documents to obtain an “ok to ship” before dispatching from the UK.

    Although this may prolong the collection lead time in the short term, it will help to guarantee that delays on import are minimised, therefore ensuring the integrity of samples.

  • What will happen to replenishment of coolant during any customs delays?

    Depending on the port, it might not be possible to access packages to replenish coolant. However, please be assured that Biocair will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the temperature of your shipment is not compromised.

    This may include, as an example, arranging for airlines to store materials in certified temperature-controlled storage until delivery is possible.

  • Would it be possible to place samples into the EU for storage from the UK, and then have them shipped within the EU at a later date?


    Please contact your local Biocair office and we can organise this.

  • Currently, we do not require any clearance for selected lanes and certain materials. Will this change after Brexit?

    Where no clearance is required now, whatever happens (deal or not) there will inevitably be some form of customs procedure on all movements going forward.

    The only variable is that if there is any form of deal agreed, it will result in reduced licensing requirements and reduced customs duty payments. However you will still have the additional cost of the clearance itself, which varies from country to country.

  • Where can I find information on EU tariffs? Will I be able to continue trading with the EU without tariffs in the future?

    The EU third-party country tariffs can be checked on EU databases such as the Market Access Database and TARIC.

    After the end of the transition period, the current third-party country EU tariffs will apply to imports from the UK. The UK will also apply its third-party country tariffs to imports from the EU.

    If a deal is reached, UK goods might be eligible for preferential (reduced) EU tariffs, provided they meet rules of origin applicable under the UK-EU trade deal. The UK and the EU are aiming to agree to a tariff-free deal, whereby tariffs on all products would be reduced to zero for all products that meet origin conditions.

    However, given there is currently no conclusive outcome to the UK-EU negotiations there is little clarity on which of the above outcomes will apply.

  • If I do not have a nominated customs agent, how do I get one?

    Biocair is able to offer this as part of our end-to-end managed service when you ship with us.

    If you need to find an agent separate to this, you will need to ensure they understand any particular requirements your shipment may have (e.g. licences for animal by-products), which customs procedures are most appropriate for your goods etc.

    Please be aware that you are ultimately responsible for ensuring any nominated agent completes accurate customs declarations on your behalf.

  • How can I keep up to date with the latest Brexit news?

    You can sign up here to receive the latest news and updates from Biocair.

    For specific enquiries and assistance, please contact your local Biocair office or email