Brexit: Moving Goods Under the Northern Ireland Protocol


Background on Northern Ireland Protocol

On 7th August the UK Government published its latest guidance relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol. This guidance sets out the arrangements for moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland as of 1st January 2021. It builds on the command paper published by the UK Government in May 2020.

Some of what is detailed in the guidance is subject to the agreement of the UK-EU Joint Committee. If this is the case, it is made clear in the sections below.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

The UK Government has outlined that businesses in Northern Ireland will have unfettered access to the rest of the UK internal market from 1st January 2021. Trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain should continue as it does now. This means:

  • no import customs declarations as goods enter the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland
  • no entry summary (‘safety and security’) declaration as goods enter the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland
  • no tariffs applied to Northern Ireland goods entering the rest of the UK in any circumstances
  • no customs checks
  • no new regulatory checks*
  • no additional approvals required for placing goods on the market in the rest of the UK

Requiring formal agreement of the UK-EU Joint Committee: The UK Government believes that there should be no requirement to submit export or exit summary declarations for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

These arrangements will only be available to Northern Ireland businesses – including businesses headquartered in Great Britain, with operations in Northern Ireland. Businesses in Ireland will need to follow the normal process for importing goods into the United Kingdom.

*Further guidance will be provided for Northern Ireland traders placing certain highly regulated goods on the Great Britain market. This will include aerospace and chemical products.

Moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

For goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, there will be no requirement for export or exit declarations. There will also be no new customs infrastructure built in Northern Ireland, or in Great Britain ports facing Northern Ireland.

There will some new processes for traders. This includes new digital import declaration requirements, and digital safety and security information, for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. These processes are necessary to ensure goods moving into Northern Ireland are not subject to tariffs, unless they are destined for the Republic of Ireland and the EU, or at a genuine and substantial risk of doing so.

Requiring formal agreement of the UK-EU Joint Committee: the decision on the application of tariffs on ‘at risk’ goods moving into Northern Ireland.

To support businesses adjusting to these new requirements, the UK Government has announced a new Trader Support Service. This free service will deal with formalities (such as import declarations and safety and security information) on behalf of traders. More information can be found below, and companies register their interest in the service here.

The guidance for placing manufactured goods on the market in Northern Ireland does not cover ‘old approach’ goods, such as chemicals, or aerospace goods.

From 1st January 2021 chemical products in the UK will be registered and regulated under the new UK REACH. Businesses exporting chemicals to Northern Ireland need to ensure that the importer in Northern Ireland holds a registration under EU REACH or appoint an Only Representative in Northern Ireland as a registrant for the substance.

The arrangements for aerospace products will become clear upon completion of negotiations on the UK-EU Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to the EU

For goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland moving to the Republic of Ireland or other EU member states there will be:

  • no substantive change for goods movements
  • no customs checks, paperwork or requirements
  • no tariffs or quotas applicable, nor checks on rules of origin
  • no EU member state able to impose barriers or frictions on goods in free circulation and authorised for the Single Market in Northern Ireland
  • no discrimination against Northern Ireland goods by EU member states

This treatment will also apply to goods moved under transit from Northern Ireland to the EU via Great Britain. Further guidance on transit is available here.

Intrastat will continue to operate for goods moving to and from NI from the EU. Businesses currently providing Intrastat declarations for these movements will continue to be required to do so in 2021.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the world

The overall process for trading between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries will continue broadly as it does today. The only difference will be when importing goods from non-EU countries into Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will benefit from free trade agreements between the UK and third countries; however EU tariffs will apply if any goods are deemed ‘at risk’ of entering Ireland or the EU. Pending the UK-EU Joint Committee’s decision on ‘at risk’ goods, further guidance will be provided.

Northern Ireland businesses importing goods from third countries will also be eligible for the Trader Support Service.

Trader Support Service

The UK Government plans for the service to be operational from September. At this point, businesses will be able to register with the service and receive support and guidance on what the Protocol means for them. This will include the steps they need to take (including getting an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number).

Traders will also be supported to understand the information they will need to collect about their goods, including their description, value and any supporting documentation required.

The service will then use this information to complete import and safety and security declarations on behalf of traders. Where a trader uses the Trader Support Service to complete these declarations, they will not need to access HMRC systems, such as CDS or ICS, themselves.