How to move goods to and from Northern Ireland
Since the EU transition ended on 31st December 2020, there have been changes to how trade occurs between the UK and EU. These changes have also affected Northern Ireland, with different rules required to move goods to and from the area under the Northern Ireland protocol as agreed in the UK-EU TCA.
The protocol keeps Northern Ireland aligned with the EU on specific rules, such as those related to trade, with some goods being checked at the border. In the months since Brexit took place, there has been some havoc around the rules, including trade disruption, increased costs and issues for NI businesses. Despite the protocol seeking to keep the peace of the Good Friday Agreement, there has also been some unrest in response to it.
If you intend to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, regardless of which area your business is based in, it is essential to be informed of the rules. This will prevent delays and issues with your shipments and ensure you are fully compliant with updated processes.
In our guide, we have explained the requirements when importing and exporting goods between GB and NI, so you can understand what you need to do.
If you intend to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you will need an EORI number, in the same way you would need one to trade with the EU. The only difference is that your EORI number will start with XI.
If you are a Northern Irish business, only certain goods require declaration when being shipped to Great Britain. It is only if you are moving these goods that you will need an EORI number.
If you require an XI EORI number, you will need to first apply for a GB EORI number, then fill in a form to request your XI version. It takes around four days to arrive, and you must have it before you begin trading.
Under new rules, customs declarations are required on imports when they arrive in Northern Ireland, including an entry summary. They are not necessary when these goods leave Great Britain. If this affects you, you will need to either appoint someone to take care of customs declarations on your behalf or ensure you have the appropriate software to do it yourself. Declarations must be filled out correctly, or it could result in goods getting stuck at the border or refused.
The government recommend using the Trader Support Service if you are exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. By doing so, you can generate documentation, including Export Summary Declarations, Simplifies Frontier Declarations and Supplementary Declarations. If you use a freight forward, they can use the service on your behalf, though this will be chargeable.
If you are exporting from Northern Ireland to Britain, customs declarations are only required on qualifying goods, such as those originating from the EU. You can find out more about what constitutes a qualifying good on the government website. You may also be required to declare controlled goods. If this impacts you, you will again need to have adequate measures to make import declarations.
If you are an NI business receiving goods from a GB business valued over £135, you will also have to make a declaration, though this can be delayed through the Trader Support Service. This is a temporary arrangement by the HMRC, so keep up to date with emerging news of new procedures.
Another area of change under the Northern Ireland protocol is whether duties and tariffs need to be paid on imports and exports. Under the protocol, no tariffs stand unless the goods being moved are ‘at risk’ of entering the EU market – for example if you’re sending something to Northern Ireland with the intention of it moving onto the EU for sale. If this is the case, EU tariffs for those products will apply.
Duty is also not payable if you can claim a preferential rate of duty. This applies if your goods are of UK or EU origin. Similarly, you may also get authorisation under the UK Trader Scheme or claim a waiver on duty to a set limit (usually up to €200,000 over three tax years).
If you have imported a good from outside of the EU (such as China) and are sending it on to NI, you will have already paid import tax. You can then use the Trusted Trader accreditation (obtained from the HMRC) to move the goods duty-free into NI as long as there is not a duty charge difference of more than 3% between the UK import tariff and the EU import tariff.
You should check the commodity codes for the products you intend to import or export to check if any duties or other fees are payable. If you import regularly, you may also be eligible for duty deferment to allow you to make monthly direct debits rather than paying duty on every individual consignment you send.
It’s also worth noting that for qualifying goods you are moving from Northern Ireland to elsewhere in the UK, there should be no customs duties to pay, except for some exceptions.
VAT requirements also continue as usual under the protocol. However, you need to give evidence that the relevant goods were exported within three months of sale and comply with zero-rating conditions.
The most significant contention point regarding the Northern Ireland protocol is how goods are checked at the borders. There are currently grace periods in place to offer a smooth transition towards new processes. The UK last month provided a roadmap to the EU regarding how these grace periods might end, and further discussion is awaited.
As things currently stand, the existing grace periods will end in September. Some were due to end earlier this month, but the government unilaterally extended these.
Under the grace period, businesses in Northern Ireland do not need to meet the EU’s certification requirements, such as for live animals and animal products, except for high-risk products. From 1st October 2021, new rules will need to be followed when importing goods from Great Britain so that all products of animal origin have the appropriate certificates.
The changes on 1st October 2021 will also impact business-to-business deliveries, which will be subject to increased border controls. It is worth discussing with your haulier to determine if they need anything from you after this date when moving goods to minimise disruption.
As with every aspect of Brexit, understanding the requirements is essential to compliance. Ensuring you are up to date with changed processes can minimise the potentially unfavourable consequences on your business.
The above should help you get to grips with the new rules surrounding Northern Ireland. However, as discussions between the UK and EU continue and grace periods come to an end, these are subject to further changes.
In the coming months, if you need assistance in moving goods to and from Northern Ireland, you can refer to the Trade Support Service. If you need further support, we are here to help.
Our advisors have in-depth expertise in the most dominant Brexit topics, including trade with Northern Ireland and the EU, rules of origin and conformity marking. We can discuss the challenges you face and take you through the measures you should implement to allow you to continue to operate efficiently. Our advice can also be paid for using SME Brexit Support Fund grants.