The UK Government and the European Commission reached new agreement on implementing the Protocol from 1 January 2021. The Protocol applies the EU’s regulations on goods, customs and VAT on goods to movements to and from Northern Ireland.
On back of this agreement, the UK has published a new Command Paper.
The EU are expected this week to approve the agreement.
It is important to note that the phase-in periods introduced are only in some limited areas such as SPS requirements. Full Customs compliance with customs declarations, safety and security declarations is expected from 1 January.
Key elements of the Command Paper
NI>GB goods movements:
- No need for Exit Summary Declarations for the vast majority of movements.
- A longer-term solution will be developed to ensure only NI qualifying companies will benefit.
- NI products will be placed on the GB market without any further controls or authorisations being required.
GB>NI goods movements:
- Only those goods genuinely at risk of or intended for movement into the EUs Single Market will face tariffs. Goods which can be shown to remain, be used or consumed in NI will not face tariffs.
- A new self-certifying UK Trader Scheme (“trusted trader”) will allow authorised businesses to commit that goods moved into NI are “not at risk” of onward movement to the EU, and therefore not liable to tariffs. Details of this scheme are not yet published, but the UK will be providing the list to the EU.
- The scheme is open only to businesses established in NI, or businesses who meet certain closely linked criteria and not businesses established only in the EU.
- If there is a UK-EU FTA, NI businesses using the UK Trader Scheme would not need to complete origin certification on GB-NI movements. If goods did not qualify for tariff-free trade under the Agreement’s rules of origin, they could still be traded tariff-free under this deal by those businesses within the UK Trader Scheme.
- The UK Trader Scheme will be open to businesses moving goods into NI from GB irrespective of where those goods have originated. It can also apply to goods from the rest of the world arriving at NI ports where the UK tariffs are higher than the EU equivalent, where UK and EU tariffs are the same, or where UK tariffs are up to 3% less than those applied by the EU.
- It will also enable goods routed from GB through Irish ports to NI if done under international transit procedures.
- The UK Government will establish a rebate scheme for goods which attract a tariff, but which can be shown to have remained in the UK.
- Although there will no new dedicated customs infrastructure put in place, companies still need to make customs, safety and security declarations from 1 January. TSS is expected to help companies through this process.
- There is a three-month grace period until 1 April 2021 from a requirement for export health certificates (EHCs). The UK Government and DAERA will identify eligible traders prior to the end of the year and contact them.
- The exemption from EHCs is time-limited. On 21 April 2021 animal health legislation in the EU will change and alignment will no longer be in place. That means that this grace period is likely to be once only, to allow supply and sourcing chains to change in time for April.
- SPS checks on agri-food products will be on electronic checking of documentation. Identity checks would be conducted simply by checking the seal of a truck. Physical checks on goods would be managed at local level based on risk assessments.
Existing guidance produced earlier in the year means import VAT will continue to be accounted through a single UK VAT return.
NI Goods must continue to be manufactured to relevant EU rules.
EU conformity markings will continue to be used to show goods meet EU rules. For most, this is CE marking. If a GB business uses a UK body to carry out conformity assessment, they will also need to apply a UKNI marking plus CE mark if those Goods are only for NI consumption.
The UKCA marking cannot be used for goods placed on the Northern Ireland market.
‘Unfettered access’ means NI firms only need CE marking to sell in GB.
Any necessary checks will be in line with current practice (such through trading standards inspections). The same authorities operating today, (NI or GB based), will continue to be responsible for approving goods on the NI market and enforcing these rules.
EU authorisations and approvals (providing access to the Northern Ireland and EU markets) would be recognised for placing goods on the GB market.
In summary, there is no cross-sectoral grace period in place. Customs declarations, safety and security declarations and full compliance is still required from 1 January although TSS is expected to help traders resolve remaining difficulties. On VAT and moving small parcels such as through Amazon or eBay, further guidance is awaited.
The real effect of the Agreement is to provide a 3 months easement from the requirement for EHCs to accompany movements of products of animal origin from GB to NI and removing the risk, in the event of no EU/UK free trade agreement, of tariff collection from goods all goods which until now was presumed to be at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market.