Northern Ireland

The UK Government published a Command Paper and supporting decisions of the Joint Committee setting out what has been agreed for the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This documentation builds on the guidance that had previously been published to help businesses prepare for changes at the end of the transition period.

The key guidance on gov.uk is:

It is important to note that the Northern Ireland Protocol is separate to, and not impacted by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol has caused disruption to businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland, and this has been well documented at a political level. In July 2021 the UK Government published another Command Paper looking at the way forward for the Norther Ireland Protocol. The paper states that there must be new and durable arrangements agreed by the UK and the EU together to provide certainty and stability for businesses in Northern Ireland in the short term.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

Under the agreement, businesses in Northern Ireland have unfettered access to the rest of the UK internal market from 1st January 2021. 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 requirement to submit export or exit summary declarations for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
  • 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*

To deliver this the UK has defined, in law, “qualifying goods” to set out specifically what goods are eligible for unfettered access to Great Britain. There are a small number of very specific exceptions to this, as set out in the declaration on export declarations.

*There are new requirements for moving highly-regulated products, such as chemicals, from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

Moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

For goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, there is 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 are 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.

To support businesses adjusting to these new requirements, the UK Government has launched 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.

From 1st January 2021 chemical products in Great Britain will be registered and regulated under the new UK REACH, while EU REACH will continue to apply in Northern Ireland. 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 CAA will continue to regulate aerospace companies in Northern Ireland, so there are no new regulatory requirements.

Goods ‘at risk’ of moving into the EU

When importing goods into Northern Ireland, whether from Great Britain or another non-EU country, the EU tariff will only be paid if the good is deemed ‘at risk’ of moving into the EU. Thankfully, the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement removes tariffs on goods moving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The information below does however still apply to goods imported from other non-EU countries.

The Joint Committee has come to a decision on how businesses can ensure their goods are not incorrectly deemed ‘at risk’, and therefore not subject to EU tariffs when they are moved into Northern Ireland.

Businesses established, or with a fixed place of business, in Northern Ireland are able to apply for authorisation through the UK Trader Scheme. Once a business has applied, it will receive provisional authorisation to undertake that the goods it is importing are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU. This will be the case until February 2021.

Applications made after the end of February 2021 will take up to a month to process and there will be no provisional authorisation.

Goods are not ‘at risk’ where either:

  • the applicable UK tariff is equal to or higher than the applicable EU tariff
  • goods are brought into Northern Ireland for sale to, or final use by, end consumers located in Northern Ireland or, for internal UK trade, elsewhere in the UK

Goods moved for sale to, or final use by, end consumers are considered not ‘at risk’ when moved by businesses authorised under the UK Trader Scheme.

Applications made after the end of February 2021 will take up to a month to process and there will be no provisional authorisation.

Goods being moved into Northern Ireland for processing are deemed ‘at risk’, however businesses can declare their goods not ‘at risk’ through the UK Trader Scheme if:

  • if you are bringing goods into Northern Ireland for processing and your turnover is below £500,000 in your most recent financial year
  • the purpose of the processing is:
    • food for sale to end consumers in the UK
    • construction, direct health and care provision, and not for profit activities carried out by importers in Northern Ireland
    • processing of animal feed for final use at premises located in Northern Ireland by the importer

Northern Ireland aerospace companies importing goods for processing

The application of the ‘at risk’ rules and application of any tariff is done at the time the goods enter Northern Ireland and has to be based on what the goods are at that point in time.

In common with how import processes work more generally, the import processes and duty are based on the actual goods that enter Northern Ireland and cannot take into account what they might later become. Crucially, this means that materials moved to be processed into aircraft parts, and therefore ultimately qualify for zero tariffs under the WTO Airworthiness plurilateral, will be considered ‘at risk’ on entry to Northern Ireland and therefore the EU tariff will be charged.

Mitigations that members could consider:

  • Import directly into Northern Ireland – this would mitigate the double duty issue as duty would only be charged once, albeit the EU tariff if the goods are ‘at risk’.
  • Import via Great Britain but move the goods under duty suspension and declare into free circulation in Northern Ireland. This requires more admin processes, requiring either a transhipment process, transit or customs warehouse to move the goods under duty suspension from the Great Britain port of entry to the Great Britain port of exit to move into Northern Ireland.
  • The above could also be used to declare the goods to inward processing relief in Northern Ireland which would allow the processing in duty suspension, where conditions are met, and then the re-export (outside the UK) of goods without tariffs being charged.
  • Claim a waiver of the EU tariff, up to the limits set out in guidance.
  • HMRC will be publishing details about a reimbursement scheme for goods that attract the EU tariff on entry to Northern Ireland but can later be demonstrated to have been consumed in Northern Ireland or returned to Great Britain.

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 is:

  • 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 is 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.

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

Accounting for VAT on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is, and remains, part of the UK’s VAT system. There is no requirement for a new VAT registration for sales of goods in Northern Ireland. If a business is already VAT registered, the existing VAT registration is unaffected. Businesses should continue to account for VAT on all sales across the UK through a single UK VAT return, which contains the same boxes as now.

For businesses unfamiliar with these processes, detailed guidance on VAT arrangements when moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be found on gov.uk.

For businesses moving goods under the protocol (between Northern Ireland and the EU), there are only minor changes to existing arrangements:

  • put an “XI” prefix in front of the VAT number when communicating with an EU customer or supplier (invoices will show an XI number ahead of the VAT number – for example, XI 123456789 – instead of GB)
  • complete an EC sales list when selling goods from Northern Ireland to VAT registered customers in the EU

Webinars

Members are still able to access the ‘Preparing for Brexit’ series of webinars through the members area. The previous webinar on the Northern Ireland Protocol is now largely out of date given the significant progress made by the Joint Committee in December,  a second webinar covering the Northern Ireland Protocol waheld as part of our new ‘Managing Brexit’ series which is available on the members area, and HMRC have provided a slide pack on the Northern Ireland Protocol which may be of use and guidance to those trading with Northern Ireland.