New Ireland/Northern Ireland Trade Arrangements (UK Brexit)

* Exit day is 31st January 2020

* Withdrawal Treaty transition period end is 31st December 2020

The revised UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty is expected to be ratified shortly by the UK enacting the UK’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (currently in draft, known as the WAB). This will bring into force both the Exit day and the transition period.

The Withdrawal Treaty includes an Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of new trade arrangements that will apply to trade between the UK and the EU via the island of Ireland after the transition period.

* Ireland is an EU member state.

* Northern Ireland (NI) is part of the UK.

* The UK will be a third country vis a vis the EU after Exit day.

* The transition period stays (delays) the effect of Exit to give time for a trade deal to be put in place between the UK and the EU.

The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol makes a number of arrangements applicable to trade – that will apply after the transition period –

(1) Northern Ireland (NI) will operate inside the EU’s single market for industrial goods and agrifood, and comply with the EU’s Union Customs Code (whilst at the same time Norther Ireland will remain a legal part of the UK’s customs territory – the Protocol does not affect the UK customs territory).

(2) Goods entering NI from GB will be coming from a third country (the UK). Because those goods will be able to cross the land border into the EU’s single market, then customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory and agrifood checks will be required at the NI points of entry from GB: Warrenpoint, Belfast and Larne ports, and at airports – or more likely due to lack of infrastructure – at the GB ports of exit: Liverpool, etc, acting for the EU.

(3) Goods going in the opposite direction, Northern Ireland to GB, will require summary exit declarations under the EU’s Union Customs Code. The detail of this is not yet published.

(4) Beyond that, checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB will be up to the UK. It will have obligations under the WTO and may want to “protect” its own internal market from Irish-origin and therefore EU goods. In addition, new trade deals the UK agrees outside of the EU sphere may stipulate or necessitate the checking of some goods.

(5) Much depends on the detail of the new set-up –

Under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty , a specialised sub-committee, which forms part of the overall UK-EU Joint Committee to be created under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty to manage the new relationship between Britain and Europe, will agree certain aspects.

Note : the EU has acknowledged that Ireland will need to have a reserved seat – along with Spain and Cyprus, who have Protocols of their own on Gibraltar and the issue of the British military base on Cyprus in the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty – at the Joint Committee table.

The sub-committee will agree a list of goods and categories of goods which are only destined for, or will be consumed in, Northern Ireland – in other words, where there is no obvious risk they will cross the border and enter the single market.

(6) Goods from GB to NI (dealt with by this sub-committee) may be exempted from tariffs altogether, or where tariffs are paid and where the EU tariff is higher than the UK one, importers will be able to apply for a rebate.

(7) Live animals will be checked coming in to NI from GB (as they are now), and agrifood products GB to NI will also need to comply with EU food safety requirements.

(8) The new UK-EU trade deal itself will also affect the work of the Joint Committee specialised sub-committee – if the UK-EU trade deal results in zero tariffs and quotas, then that will largely remove the need for tariff exemptions and rebates on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland (traders would still have to do the paperwork to show that the consignments they are moving are actually tariff-free).

I will post further on this matter, when more information is available.

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