Brexit: Exporting to the EU via France – keeping it simple


Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts

VAT Director and Head of VAT & Duty


One of the most challenging areas of Brexit is navigating the guidance on exporting goods into the EU. Every country has their own regulations to abide by, and in some instances the guidance is open to interpretation. However, going via the Channel and into France may be more straightforward than you first thought.  

France is already a popular entry point into the EU for UK Food & Drink businesses, but there are some important areas you need to have set up now to be compliant in time for 1 January 2021.  

As the Brexit negotiations intensify, and as we quickly approach the ultimate deadline for a deal to be struck, I wanted to share some of the insight we’ve gleaned so far on food & drink exports and entry into the French market.   

Exporting food & drink products to France  

 France, via the port at Dover, is a popular entry point. Despite speculation in the press over the last few months on concerns over heightened demand and traffic through the port, it still remains the preferred option for many businesses.  

Let’s start with the action you need to take immediately. Whether you’re already exporting to France or planning to use this route, you need to ensure you apply for a UK EORI number if you don’t already have one.  

If you’re intending to be the importer of record into France, you’ll also need an EU EORI number and a French VAT number. Time is running out, so our advice is to apply now if you’ve not already done so. If you don’t apply within the next couple of days, the chances are you won’t receive your number by 1 January 2021. 

From a customs and duty point of view, France has a number of simplifications which can reduce the additional work required after Brexit. For example: 

  • At the moment, there’s no requirement for a non-established business to have a fiscal representative to obtain a VAT registration. This is a local tax registered company that acts on your behalf to take care of managing your VAT affairs with tax authorities. This could change over time. 
  • A non-established business can act as an importer into France, but you must appoint an AEO accredited Customs Broker as a representative in France in order to use postponed import VAT accounting - this is a very beneficial measure as it eliminates the need to pay and recover import VAT. Unlike the UK, most food stuufs in France have a positive VAT rate.  
     
  • Duty deferment is available, allowing you to defer any customs duty owed, but many non-established importers use a broker’s facility to manage this area. 
     
  • France operates a domestic reverse charge for VAT for business-to-business supplies by non-established businesses, so no VAT is ever shown on invoices and there’s no need to collect and pay over VAT on sales. 
     
  • The EU Food & Drink Operators (FBO) rules cover everything from country of origin labelling, food and drink business operator address labelling, use of the EU emblem and more. Meeting these rules is a big issue for food and drink businesses, although our experience suggests that the French authorities take a pragmatic approach. 

Putting all of this together, the route into France certainly appears simpler than you might initially have thought. It’s just important to ensure you have everything lined up in time to ensure you’re all set for 1 January 2021! 

We’re here to help 

We’ll know the outcome of the Brexit negotiations any day now. So, if your business exports to the EU or Ireland, it’s imperative to review your operation now. We’ve covered this in more detail in our blog here. If you need any help with your Brexit planning, we’re here and ready to help you. Contact me Nigel Roberts, or another member of our Brexit team at Brexit@jcca.co.uk.