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What is a Single European Authorisation?

Single European Authorisation (SEA) is a concept initially developed by a group of multinational companies based in the UK. These were companies faced with the reality of having to report to customs administrations in several European countries. Their initial report, in 1996, identified duplication of effort, extra costs and business inefficiencies. They were also acutely aware of how cultural influences in member states rendered the same legislation very different in practice.

Wouldn’t it make more sense, they said, to report just once, to one customs administration for the whole of their international trade activities?

The idea of allowing a company to be authorised to manage its customs activities for the whole EU area from one central point caught on and the Commission was persuaded to allow pilots to take place. Not all EU members are currently taking part, in particular Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have yet to come on board. All other members, however, have taken an active interest in the project and a number of bilateral pilots are already live.

It is now over a year since the Parliamentary approval was given for an SEA trial to take place in the UK. This trial is open to 12 companies. The first UK-authorised SEA between the UK and Holland is now operational; other trials involving other member states are getting close to going live. However, some of the original trialists have fallen by the wayside which means that there are a number of slots still available to interested companies. In a recent JCCC Information Paper (01) 20, Customs invited traders interested in SEA to contact them. At LANGDON we recommend that companies who believe it meets their company’s business strategy should do just that.

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