The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. The withdrawal agreement provides for a transition period which ends on 31 December 2020. Until that time nothing changes and EU law continues to apply.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is due to take effect from the end of the transition period. The aim is to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland while ensuring that the UK, including Northern Ireland, leaves the EU as a whole. Special provisions will apply to Northern Ireland while this remains in force.
The elected Northern Ireland institutions can decide what happens to the protocol provisions in a consent vote every four years – the first of which will be in 2024.
What applies under the terms of the Protocol?
1. Movement of Goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
This should continue to take place as it does now and no restrictions should apply to goods moving to the rest of the UK.
The UK government will guarantee unfettered access (with a limited range of exceptions) for Northern Ireland’s businesses (including businesses headquartered in GB with operations in NI) to the rest of the UK internal market. This will mean no declarations, tariffs, new regulatory checks or customs checks or additional approvals for goods from Northern Ireland businesses to be placed on the UK market. Goods will be able to be placed on the market in Scotland, Wales and England irrespective of whether they are EU or UK certified.
2. Movement of Goods from GB to Northern Ireland
Some changes will apply to the movement of goods from GB to NI.
No tariffs will be levied on goods remaining within the UK customs territory. Goods which are destined for or will ultimately enter the EU (including Ireland) or at a risk of doing so will face some tariffs. In such cases tariffs will be levied at ports of entry rather than at the land border. If tariffs are paid and it is proven that the goods will remain in NI then there will be a rebate.
Under the Protocol UK customs authorities will apply EU customs rules to goods entering Northern Ireland. This will give rise to some new administrative processes for traders such as new electronic import declaration requirements and safety and security information. The UK government have advised that these are required to ensure that tariffs are not paid on goods within the UK. Furthermore, they have noted that they will ensure that these electronic processes are streamlined and simplified as much as possible.
The UK government have noted that there should be no new physical customs infrastructure, however, there will be some expansion of existing entry points for agrifood goods to provide for additional controls building on what already happens at Northern Ireland’s ports. The process by which controls are conducted and their frequency has yet to be agreed.
3. Movement of Goods from Northern Ireland to Ireland or other EU countries
Movement of goods from Northern Ireland to other EU countries will remain unaffected. No changes will apply. Goods will be able to trade freely within the EU single market.
4. Movement of Goods from Northern Ireland to Rest of world (non EU countries)
Movement of goods from Northern Ireland to countries outside of the EU will continue to operate as it does today. Northern Ireland will continue to remain part of the UK customs territory so will be able to benefit from future UK Free Trade Agreements. Tariffs will continue to apply unless there are products “at risk” of moving into the EU where EU and UK tariffs differ.
Trader support Services
To help Northern Ireland businesses deal with these changes the UK government will implement the Trader Support Service which will undertake the digital processes on behalf of the traders.
Once registered for Trader Support Service, business will need to digitally provide the appropriate information on the goods being moved. The Trader Support Service will deal with all the associated requirements for free.
Traders can sign up for more information on the Trader Support Service here.
To register an interest in the Trader Support Service, fill in the form on screen, save it, then email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any queries or would like further information on the points outlined in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Whilst every effort has been made by CavanaghKelly to ensure the accuracy of the information here, it cannot be guaranteed and neither CavanaghKelly nor any related entity shall have liability to any person who relies on the information herein. Information given here is for guidance only. Detailed professional advice should be taken before acting on any information contained herein. If having read the guidance here, you would like to discuss further; a member of our team would be pleased to help you.