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Notwithstanding the BREXIT Trade and Cooperation Agreement: BDO warns German companies to be aware of pitfalls in relation to customs and Social Security Law

12 January 2021

Notwithstanding the relief that a no deal was averted with the BREXIT Trade and Cooperation Agreement, BDO's BREXIT expert team sees new challenges for German companies, especially in customs regulations and social security law.

In particular, attention should be paid to customs regulations. The "no customs duties" reports published in the general press are not as such correct. Not all goods imported from the UK into the EU and vice versa will be exempt from customs duties. As usual with free trade agreements, only those goods that have their preferential origin in the country of the respective contracting party are not subject to customs duties. Goods originating in China, for example, are still subject to the so-called third-country tariff. Importing and exporting companies are therefore well advised to check their internal control systems now at the latest to see whether their origin and preference system is set up correctly. Anyone who makes false origin declarations runs the risk of being involved in duty evasion.

The BREXIT Trade and Cooperation Agreement also contains new social security regulations but there will be challenges for German companies from 1st January 2021. The rules provide less room for manoeuvre on foreign assignments given that transitional regulations will only apply to so-called "old cases", i.e. individuals who were already in a cross-border situation prior to 1st January 2021. Even more seriously with effect from 1st January 2021 exemption agreements for "new cases" are no longer possible. This is a noticeable disadvantage for many companies compared to the previous position. It is still unclear whether it will be possible to fall back on the 1960 agreement between Germany and the United Kingdom on social security with regard to such exemption agreements, or whether further regulations addressing this issue can be expected. In general, the agreement contains numerous regulations for "new cases" (e.g. for postings and so-called multiple employment), but their applicability must be carefully examined in detail, especially since some social security areas have been excluded.