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Coronavirus – EU Border Closure impact on International Trade - Global

  • United Kingdom
  • Competition, EU and Trade
  • Coronavirus - Country overview

20-03-2020

Border Closure Update

In an attempt to stem the virus outbreak in Europe, a number of European Union (EU) and Schengen zone Member States exercised their right to temporarily re-introduced border controls between themselves and other Member States. Pursuant to the Schengen Borders Code, where immediate action needs to be taken in order to adequately respond to a threat, a Member State may reintroduce border controls for 10 days without prior notification, this reintroduction may be prolonged for a period of up to twenty days.[1]

The following Member States have formally given notice of the reintroduction of internal border controls:

Member State

Date From – To

Which borders?

Spain

17 March  – 26 March

all land borders

Portugal

16 March – 26 March

land border with Spain

Norway

16 March – 26 March

all internal borders

Estonia

17 March – 27 March

land borders with Latvia, air borders and sea borders

Germany

16 March – 26 March

land borders with Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland and Austria

Lithuania

14 March – 24 March

all internal borders

Poland

15 March – 24 March

land borders with Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Lithuania, sea borders, air borders;

Switzerland

13 March – 23 March

land border with Italy;

Czech Republic

14 March – 4 April

land borders with Austria and Germany, air borders;

Hungary

12 March – 22 March

land borders with Austria and Slovenia;

Austria

11 March – 21 March

land border with Italy

14 March – 24 March

land borders with Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Please note that as of Thursday 19 March 2020, Finland issued restrictions on Finnish cross-border traffic, to come into force at midnight. It is unclear at this stage whether Finland intends to give notice to formally re-impose its internal borders.

Further, in response to the worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the EU - and in an attempt to ease the pressure on Member States’ national health care systems - the European Commission announced on Tuesday 17 March 2020 a 30-day ban on travel to the EU and Schengen zone. This 30-day travel ban amounts to a temporary closure of EU external borders to all “non-essential” travel from third nations. The 30-day travel ban was agreed by EU leaders on the 17 March 2020 and was implemented with immediate effect. As of this date, the following have exclusively been permitted to cross the external borders of the EU: goods, medical equipment and  persons deemed necessary to the EU’s efforts to manage the spread of the coronavirus.

The initial travel ban is for 30 days, however, these timings may be extended if necessary.  

Business Continuity

From the outset of the 30-day travel ban, EU leaders agreed to set up “fast-track” lanes at Member States’ internal frontiers in order to ensure the continuous flow of goods across the EU.

In her speech outlining the EU’s proposal to close its external borders, European Commission President, Mrs Von der Leyen, indicated that freight drivers would be exempt from the 30-day travel ban as “the flow of goods to the European Union must continue to secure the supply of goods, including essential items such as medicine, but also food and components that our factories need”.

The trade restrictions imposed on certain medical products (as highlighted in our previous briefing) continue. However, the 30-day travel ban does not impose further import or export control restrictions on goods. Further, the European Commission in its guidelines for the border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services specifically states that no restrictions should be imposed on the circulation of goods in the single market (unless duly justified).

In addition to the re-imposition of internal border controls detailed above, a number of Member States have unilaterally imposed further restrictions on travel.[2] However, no recorded measures to date include any restrictions on the movement of goods across borders. Instead, it has been reported that a number of Member States are imposing measures to combat delays to the transportation of goods caused by the implementation of travel restrictions and/or border controls.

Accordingly, while there may be some delays in crossing both internal and external Member State borders due to increased scrutiny and border controls, the movement of goods will not be prohibited. As such, it would be prudent for all actors in the supply chain to account for any such delays to the delivery of goods in business plans.

The UK’s Foreign Office has said that the UK is not included in the border closure. Further, the Irish Government has issued a statement to state that “under no circumstances will a closure of the land border between [Ireland and Northern Ireland] be considered”. As such, it is anticipated that trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland will continue as usual.



[1]                 Regulation (EU) 2016/399 ON A Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code), article 28.

[2]                 The European Commission is tracking all transport measures imposed by in European geographic area. For a complete list of these measures, please visit the European Commission website, here