Imports make an important contribution to the UK economy. It can be far more cost-effective to import goods than to manufacture them in the UK, giving importers a competitive advantage.
In some cases, overseas suppliers offer goods that aren't available from UK sources. Purchases from overseas are treated differently depending on whether the goods come from countries within the European Union (EU) or from elsewhere. Within the EU, most goods can be imported with minimal customs control and, mostly, no import duty or VAT to pay.