Although recently adopted for UK/EU transactions, ATA carnets are not new. They have been used for decades across the world and generally appreciated.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology needs to make temporary exports on a regular basis and as you would expect, researched the topic well. They concluded that ATA carnets were the best option, with alternatives more cumbersome.
Other global business and academic institutions offer similar conclusions, as do those in the UK. Cambridge university suggest ATA carnets are beneficial for overseas field trips, or research projects.
Carnets have become accepted across the world and membership continues to grow, although a sudden expansion in use applies solely to the UK. Leaving the EU created a bloc of 27 countries which we could no longer freely move goods to, or from.
January 2021 Onwards
As we write this, almost two years have passed since we fully left the EU. Additional admin remains, although initial roadblocks have gone away for much of the UK and we can begin to judge how ATA carnets are performing.
In acceptance terms, the mood music is similar to that of the international bodies mentioned, with alternatives generally not seen as viable.
The EU website highlights ATA carnets as a sound option and point out how they also function as a transit document. Allowing goods to be moved within the EU customs territory from the point of entry, to wherever used and to any point of exit.
British government websites follow the same track, with no proposals for a different system. A global approach was already in place and perhaps wisely, they did not feel that the UK launching another idea would help.
So carnets have become the standard approach for temporary exports to and from the EU. No exact figures are available but several billion pounds worth of goods are involved and at times, business critical activity.
Carnet User Perception
There is a problem here, in so far as views on leaving the EU still influence opinions on almost anything to do with the process. Some could say they dislike using carnets, or how wonderful they are simply due to embedded bias.
We all accept that without leaving the EU, no system would be required but we did leave, so how are carnets doing. There are bound to be detractors, yet views given by clients and posted online show a higher satisfaction rate for carnets than other customs activity.
A post from The Musicians Union covered a tour from the UK to Belgium and The Netherlands, for first time carnet users. They explained the process, having to visit Sevington, how carnet use added over an hour for the outbound journey, less on the return.
The tour manager did comment that they had no problems and only needed one carnet for three cars, plus all the equipment. ATA carnets are passports for goods but unlike people, you don’t need a separate passport for each person, or instrument, or piece of kit.
The Practical Outcome
As a leading ATA carnet supplier, Brexit made us busy and concerned for users, we wanted to see them avoid complications. In all fairness this has happened beyond our hopes, issues are rare and we know of none which were not overcome.
There is extra admin but not too onerous and costs can be shared amongst multiple items, or people, or repeat trips within the 12 months carnets are valid.
As part of a pre-existing, proven approach, ATA carnets for the EU are a relative success story. They remove hassle when visiting Europe and once in the EU, allow UK business travellers to act much as they did before Brexit.