Brexit and the Customs Union: The Practical Impact on Museums

Written by Clare Brown, Curator of Natural Science, Leeds Museums and Galleries. Re-posted here with kind permission of a blog originally published by the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA)

Who knows where you are and when you are reading this and so this blog comes with a few provisos:

  • Really importantly this is NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR NOTICE. NatSCA has been asked to share information from Defra on this situation but if you need clarification please speak to Defra or a solicitor.
  • The information in this blog pertains to the movement of material between the UK and the EU, it does not apply to non-EU countries, or internal UK movement/material use.
  • The information in this blog is only relevant in the event of a so-called “no-deal Brexit”.
  • This blog was written in May 2019 and so any reference to “current” or “present” refers to this time.

With the UK in the EU, Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listed species in Annexes B to D can be freely traded and moved within the EU. The main change, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will be that you will need CITES permits to move CITES good between the UK and the EU for species listed in Annexes B to D.

Please click here for an up to date list of Annex B to D species.

You’ll need to check the requirements for the EU country you are importing from or exporting to on the CITES website and the Defra CITES pages. In most loan circumstances: Annex A-C imports/exports will need a permit. Annex D will need a Customs notification.

Registered Scientific Institutions

Registered Scientific Institutions will continue to be able to use “labels” for EU import/export and so Defra have said that institutions “may think it prudent [to register] in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

Being a Registered Scientific Institution allows you to trade in specimens of species included in Appendices I, II and III for “non-commercial loan, donation or exchange between scientists or scientific institutions registered by a Management Authority of their State, of herbarium specimens, other preserved, dried or embedded museums specimens, and live plant material”.

  • Permits can only be issued for non-commercial loans, donations and exchanges between scientists and scientific institutions.
  • Both exporter and importer must be registered institutions.
  • It currently costs £221 to register and takes up to 3 months to be approved.
  • Contact the UK government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency for more information.

Ports Handling CITES material

After a no-deal Brexit, not all ports will be designated to handle CITES material. Please make sure you check with the port you are intending your specimens to pass through before organising the move.

UK ports that will be designated to handle CITES material:

Airports include:

  • Belfast International
  • Birmingham International
  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • East Midlands
  • Edinburgh
  • Gatwick
  • Glasgow International
  • Glasgow Prestwick
  • Heathrow
  • Luton
  • Manchester
  • Southampton Eastleigh
  • Stansted

Ports include:

  • Felixstowe
  • Harwich
  • Liverpool Container Terminal (lift-on/lift-off)
  • London Gateway
  • Plymouth
  • Poole
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Tilbury

Postal points of entry include:

  • Coventry International Parcel Post Hub
  • Heathrow International Distribution Centre

For further guidance please look at the Defra-issued guidance online:

Again, this is not legal advice, please consult Defra or a solicitor if you need clarification of the law.