Ursula Johnston Director

Speaks:  English

Qualified: 2020 - Solicitor of England and Wales

Qualified: 2006 - Institute of Indirect Taxation (Non Solicitor)

Primary office:  London

Ursula Johnston

With more than ten years of customs and global trade advisory experience in Europe and Asia, Ursula assists businesses in navigating the complex and ever changing trade environment with practical advice and proven solutions. Prior to joining Gowling WLG, Ursula held senior roles trade & customs consulting practices at a Big four accounting and tax firm in Singapore, London and Amsterdam. 

Ursula assists clients with compliance challenges in the fields of customs, excise duties and cross-border regulatory matters including export controls and sanctions while maintaining a focus on broader commercial objectives and sensitivities.

She works with clients across a wide range of business functions including supply chain, tax, procurement, IT, legal and logistics. This ensures that any proposed solution to a challenge or opportunity is both workable from both a compliance and operational perspective.

She is experienced in the fields of customs valuation, preferential origin management under Free Trade Agreements (FTA), tariff classification and bonded manufacturing amongst others. She has led discussion and negotiation with customs authorities and other border agencies globally to resolve delay to the cross-border movement of goods and post-import audit activity. 

Recently she has been focused in assisting businesses with operations in the UK and European Union with understanding the potential range of impacts that Brexit will have and the strategies that can be adopted to mitigate the potentially negative effect on supply chain continuity and costs. Her advice in this area sits within a broader understanding of the importance of a business' customs and trade function in managing geo-political risk.


  • Customs and trade project lead for a pan-European business reorganisation for a consumer products multi-national. This involved detailed supply chain review to identify risk and advice on mitigating and cost reduction strategies.
  • Provided customs technical support to in-house counsel during an HMRC investigation into fraudulent import activity with the objective to minimise potential penalties and risk of criminal prosecution for company directors.
  • Successfully applied for a customs tariff suspension at the European Commission for suspension of customs duties on a chemical sourced in Canada. This led to savings of £8.5 million per annum and greatly simplified the customs reporting requirements.
  • Led a multi-disciplinary project team at a large pharmaceutical company to evaluate its customs exposure to Brexit and design a practical action plan for a range of potential Brexit outcomes.
  • Designed and ran an outsourced sanctions screening programme for the EMEA region for a manufacturer and distributor of industrial goods to minimise risk of breach of UK, EU and US regulations.

Career & Recognition

Filter timeline:
  • 2020

    • Qualifications (Year of Call/Admission, etc.)
      Qualified, Solicitor of England and Wales
  • 2018

    • Education
      September 2018
      Gowling WLG (UK), Director, Customs and Trade
  • 2015

    • Career
      Ernst & Young LLP, UK, senior manager
  • 2010

    • Career
      PwC World Trade Management Services, Singapore, manager
  • 2008

    • Career
      Ernst & Young LLP, Amsterdam, senior associate
  • 2006

    • Qualifications (Year of Call/Admission, etc.)
      Qualified, Institute of Indirect Taxation (Non Solicitor)
  • 2004

    • Education
      College of Law, Legal Practice Course
  • 2003

    • Education
      University of Sheffield, BA Law and Criminology (Hons)

Previous speaking engagements

04 July 2019 What is the Customs Union?
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