Customs Red Tape (Ireland)

There is a lot of chatter about the new processes required for goods movements between Ireland (north and south) and its neighbour, Britain. This blog does not focus on Customs, Tariffs or VAT.

Irish Revenue information on Imports from Britain is here. Note the requirement for an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). The ENS is a safety and security entry summary declaration needed for moving goods on ‘roll-on, roll-off’ lorries and other goods vehicles.

An emergency code (number) was supplied initially by Irish Revenue to allow importers temporarily bypass some of the documentation rules on border controls. This is a facilitation and is temporary.

Further information is accessed from this Irish Revenue location – here.

The Irish Times reports again this morning re the rules of origin matter (Peppa Pig etc) –

Government officials have raised queries with the European Commission Commission about Brexit “rules of origin” restrictions that are disrupting supply chains of foods and other products coming from mainland Europe to Ireland.

Rules of origin are designed to prevent a UK company buying cheap products from a non-EU country and repackaging and rebranding them and then selling them into the EU tariff-free.

The restriction is, however, preventing some products moving between two EU countries where the products are repackaged in UK distribution centres before being supplied into the Irish market.

Under the EU-UK trade deal, signed before Christmas, goods that are unpacked and repacked in the UK – and not subject to further manufacturing – face customs taxes, or tariffs, when reimported back into the EU.

The rules have led to severe disruption in supply chains and food shortages and empty shelves in Irish retail outlets of UK supermarket chains, in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and delayed the shipment of other goods.

The Irish Times notes – government officials warned a fix was unlikely

Government officials have made “technical inquiries” with officials within the commission “to see what the possibilities are”, said one Government source, though they warned that finding a fix for the issue was unlikely.

“This is Brexit. The UK has left the single market and the customs union. They are a third country. That is the problem,” said the source.

“If a good comes through England, that doesn’t mean that it should come under these rules, but if they are repackaged, there is a problem. That is not transit.

“This is an issue which was unforeseen or not foreseen to the extent to which it should have been.”

My Peppa Pig blog post concerns re-distribution. But even then, EU Commission clarification would be required,

Customs Solution to ‘Percy Pig’ tariffs (Ireland)

This blog does not focus on customs, tariffs, or VAT. But this story from the Irish state broadcaster RTE, caught my eye. Here

Percy Pig are popular sweets, sold by the UK retailer Marks & Spencer widely in Ireland and Europe. They are made in Germany and imported to the UK for onward re-distribution to Ireland and Europe without further processing.

It was thought under the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement such import into the UK and re-distribution back to the EU without further manufacture or processing in the UK would attract a tariff.

But a partner in Customs and International Trade at (the accounting firm) BDO Ireland thinks she has a possible solution, which she is running by the authorities for verification. It utilises a Returned Goods Relief in existing EU customs rules.

[others may also have located Returned Goods Relief or other facilitations in the EU customs rules]

EU-UK Trade and cooperation agreement (2) (UK & EU)

I updated my post this morning with the link to the UK published legal text (1,246 pages – it’s the same text in the individual sections and chapters). Look back on the blog itself.

I also updated my post this morning (online) with the link to the EU document now loaded on a dedicated website, this also includes an EU Q&A – here.

A couple of points (identified in the Q&A) –

(1) Trading under ‘FTA’ (free trade agreement) terms from 1st Jan will differ substantively to trading in EU’s Customs Union and Single Market.

In particular:

• rules of origin will apply to goods in order to qualify for preferential trade terms under the agreement;

• all imports will be subject to customs formalities and will need to comply with the rules of the importing party;

• all imports into the EU must meet all EU standards and will be subject to regulatory checks and controls for safety, health and other public policy purposes.

(2) Traders will account not only for the origin of materials used, but also if their processing took place in the territory of one of the Parties. This is called ‘full cumulation’. Exporters will be able to self-certify the origin of the goods, and will have additional flexibility in collecting documentary evidence to prove origin during the first year.

(3) The Parties will recognise each other’s ‘Authorised Economic Operators’ programmes, enabling trusted traders with this status to use certain simplifications and/or facilitations relating to security and safety in their customs operations with the customs authorities of the other Party. But there is no waiver on security and safety declarations, as this requires alignment between the Parties on security standards.

(4) From 1st Jan, the EU and the UK will be two separate regulatory and legal spaces. This means that all products exported from the EU to the UK will need to comply with UK technical regulations and will be subject to any applicable regulatory compliance checks and controls. Similarly, all products imported from the UK to the EU will need to comply with EU technical regulations and will be subject to all applicable regulatory compliance obligations, checks and controls for safety, health and other public policy purposes.

(5) Both Parties agreed on a definition of international standards that identifies the relevant international standard-setting bodies. This is intended to ensure that both sides’ domestic product standards and technical regulations are based on the same international references and are therefore compatible to the extent possible.

(6) In the field of conformity assessment, the Parties agreed to maintain simplified access to each other’s markets through, in particular, the continued use of self-certification of conformity by the manufacturer where this is currently applied in both the EU and the UK. This covers a very large share of bilateral trade.

(7) Re Automotive Products – the Parties agreed that regulatory convergence will be based on the use of the international technical standards set at UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) level. Both Parties will accept, in their respective markets, products that are covered by a valid UN type-approval certificate.

(8) Re Medicinal Products – the Parties agreed to recognise the results of inspections carried out by the authorities of the other Party in manufacturing facilities located in the territory of the issuing authority. This will avoid unnecessary duplication of inspections of manufacturers of medicinal products to assess their compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice requirements.

(9) Re Chemicals – the Parties agreed to cooperate, while respecting each Party’s right to regulate, both bilaterally and in relevant international fora, on the assessment of hazards and risks of chemicals and the formats for documenting the results of such assessment. The Parties already implement the UN GHS and this will continue. The Parties agreed to use transparent procedures for the classification of substances and possibly to exchange non-confidential information.

(10) Re Organic Products – the Parties agreed reciprocal recognition of equivalence of the current EU and UK organic legislation and control system, for all categories of organic products. Organic products complying with EU law and certified by control bodies recognised by the EU will be accepted on the UK market and vice-versa. In view of new EU rules for organic products applying as of 1.1.2022, equivalence will be reassessed by end-2023.

(11) Re SPS – there will be no changes to EU food safety standards. UK agri-food exporters will need to meet all EU SPS import requirements and be subject to official controls carried out by Member States’ authorities at Border Control Posts. Where required, these controls will include the verification of health certificates in line with international standards. Similarly, EU agri-food exporters will need to meet all UK SPS import requirements.

The Agreement allows for either party to unilaterally decide to reduce the frequency of certain types of border import controls, taking into account the extent to which their SPS rules converge.

It also ensures a simplified process for the approval of imports, where relevant by drawing up lists of establishments that are eligible to export to the other party, based on guarantees provided by the authorities of the exporting Party.

(12) Re Northern Ireland – the EU acquis, including the Union Customs Code, legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls (“SPS rules”), rules on agricultural production/marketing, or VAT and excise in respect of goods, will apply to all goods entering Nortern Ireland.

As a result, from 1 January, goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will constitute “imports”.  This means that such goods will need to comply with EU product rules and be subject to checks and controls for safety, health and other public policy purposes, including all necessary SPS controls applicable between the EU and the UK.

An agreement in principle (under the separate Withdrawal Agreement) has been found in the following areas, amongst others: export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of certain chilled meats and other food products to supermarkets, and a clarification on the application of State aid under the terms of the Protocol. There are some facilitations –

For example, certain chilled meat, for which imports in the Union market are normally prohibited, will be accepted for delivery to supermarkets in Northern Ireland during a limited period of 6 months:

• Minced meat of poultry, frozen or chilled. Chilled minced meat from animals other than poultry (e.g. minced beef.

• Chilled meat preparations (e.g. sausages, meatballs, pork pies)..

• Any fresh meat, including minced meat and meat preparations, produced from triangular trade (e.g. EU meat exported to Great Britain, cut or minced in Great Britain and re-exported to Northern Ireland).

Another example is that, during a limited period of 3 months, the goods coming from Great Britain and destined for supermarkets located in Northern Ireland will be accompanied with a simplified, collective certificate covering all the goods transported in the same truck, instead of individual certificates.

During this period of time, the UK shall maintain its current EU SPS legislation for the products concerned.

The scope is limited to a restricted number of food suppliers for supermarkets which are approved by the UK authorities after demonstrating that they meet a range of trust criteria. This list of members will be established by the United Kingdom in cooperation with the European Commission before 31 December 2020 and cannot be extended after that date.

(13) Re Business Persons Mobility – the temporary movement of natural persons for business purposes (often refered to as ‘mode 4‘), the EU and the UK have agreed on a broad range of reciprocal commitments facilitating the ability of companies located in a Party to transfer certain employees, as intra-corporate transferees, to work in an associated company located in the other Party. As intra-corporate transferees constitute temporary migration, the maximum duration of such transfers is capped at three years. With respect to UK nationals transferred to the EU, this duration includes periods of mobility between Member States. This is in line with current EU practice with other third countries.

The EU-UK Agreement also facilitates the movement of “contractual service suppliers” or “independent professionals” to supply services under certain conditions. Business visitors not providing services will also be allowed short-term entry in order to carry out certain activities.

(14) Re Legal Services – the EU and its Member States, and the UK will allow lawyers from the other Party to provide legal services relating specifically to the practice of international law and the law of the country where they are authorised under their “home” title.

However, it should be noted that EU law is not considered to be international law, but instead the law of the Member State in which EU lawyers are established or hold their “home title”.

(15) Re Energy – the UK will leave the EU’s internal energy market on 1st Jan, Northern Ireland will maintain the Single Electricity Market with Ireland (Republic of Ireland) (under the separate Withdrawal Agreement). The EU and the UK have agreed to establish a new framework for their future cooperation in the energy field. The UK Energy (Electricity) Guidance was updated on Dec 24th (see the Brexit Guidance List on Cardinal Environment Registers & Checklists).

The UK also leaves the EU ETS (see the Brexit Guidance List) and Euratom.

The UK will define its own climate change targets and policies and the UK committed to implementing a system of carbon pricing as of 1 January 2021. The Parties agreed a framework for cooperation in the fight against climate change, and their ambition to achieve economy-wide climate neutrality by 2050. The Parties will give serious consideration to linking their respective carbon pricing systems in a way that preserves the integrity of these systems and provides for the possibility to increase their effectiveness, for instance by adding further sectors, such as buildings. This would be subject to an agreement to be negotiated separately in the future.

There are also agreed provisions for cooperation in the development of offshore energy, with a focus on the North Sea.

(16) Re Euratom – the Agreement contains a separate agreement between Euratom and the UK on the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

This Agreement enables:

• the supply and transfer of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, technology and equipment;

• trade and commercial cooperation relating to the nuclear fuel cycle;

• cooperation in the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste;

• nuclear safety and radiation protection;

• use of radioisotopes and radiation in agriculture, industry and medicine;

• geological and geophysical exploration;

• development, production, further processing and use of uranium resources.

(17) Re Rebalancing (Level Playing Field, includes OHS and ENV Standards) – the Agreement provides the possibility to apply unilateral rebalancing measures in the case of significant divergences in the areas of labour and social, environment or climate protection, or of subsidy control, where such divergences materially impact trade or investment between the Parties.

This might be relevant, for example in a situation where one Party would significantly increase its levels of protection related to labour or social standards, the environment or climate above the levels of the other Party. This may entail an increase in the costs of production and hence a competitive disadvantage.

Another example would be a situation where one Party would have a system of subsidy control that would systemically fail to prevent the adoption of trade distorting subsidies, which would provide a competitive advantage for that Party.

In such cases, a Party would be able to adopt measures to rebalance the competitive advantage of the other Party.

Each Party could also, at regular intervals and if rebalancing measures have been taken frequently or for more than 12 months, seek a review of the trade and other economic parts of the Agreeent to ensure an appropriate balance between the commitments in the Agreement on a durable basis. In this case, the Parties could negotiate and amend relevant parts of the Agreement. Any trade or economic part of the Agreement, including aviation, that would remain in place or be renegotiated would retain appropriate level playing field commitments.

(18) Re OHS and ENV – the EU and the UK agreed to uphold levels of protection in the areas reated to labour and social standards, and environment and climate.

Labour and social levels of protection cover the following areas:

• fundamental rights at work;

• occupational health and safety standards;

• fair working conditions and employment standards;

• information and consultation rights at company level; or

• restructuring of undertakings.

Environmental levels of protection include the following areas:

• industrial emissions;

• air emissions and air quality;

• nature and biodiversity conservation;

• waste management;

• the protection and preservation of the aquatic environment;

• the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

• the prevention, reduction and elimination of risks to human health or the environment arising from the production, use, release or disposal of chemical substances; or

• the management of impacts on the environment from agricultural or food production, notably through the use of antibiotics and decontaminants.

The climate level of protection applies to:

• emissions and removals of greenhouse gases covering EU’s and the UK’s respective 2030 economy-wide targets including their systems of carbon pricing; and

• the phasing-out of ozone depleting substances.

(19) Re Further OHS and ENV Provisions – the Agreement contains several guarantees in terms of environmental protection, over and above the non-regression provisions applying to environment, climate and labour and social protection. These include:

• A recognition of the shared biosphere;

• Coverage of future targets that are now in the laws of the parties – the 2030 waste recycling targets, the 2027 water targets and the 2030 air pollution ceilings;

• Full inclusion of the key environment principles, including precautionary principle, polluter pays, and integration principle;

• Full inclusion of the principles of the Aarhus Convention with modernised text, including access to justice, access to information and public participation;

• Effective co-operation mechanism foreseen between the supervisory body or bodies in the UK in terms of protection of the environment, and the Commission;

• The recognition of the relevance of procedures for evaluating the likely impact of a proposed activity on the environment, such as an environmental impact assessment or a strategic environmental assessment.

(20) Re Health/Sanitary Quality in Agri/Foods – the broad scope of the commitment on the environment refers to agricultural and food production. In addition, it specifies two important areas for the level playing field with regards to agriculture and food production, namely the use of antibiotics and decontaminants.

(21) Re Aviation – UK carriers will be able to fly across the territory of the EU without landing; make technical stops in the territory of the EU for non-traffic purposes; and carry passengers and/or cargo on any routes between a given point in the UK and a point in the EU. Also, the Agreement will permit Member States and the UK to bilaterally exchange onward travel (termed 5th freedom) rights for extra-EU all-cargo operations only (e.g. Paris-London-New York).

The Agreement defines new arrangements for the recognition of future design and environmental certificates, as well as for production organisation oversight. Existing design certificates issued under EU rules before 1 Jan will remain valid.

(22) Re Road Transport – the Agreement provides for quota-free point-to-point access for operators transporting goods by road between the EU and the UK. This means UK lorries would be able to reach the EU and return from the EU, including when not loaded. The same rights are conferred to EU hauliers travelling from any point in the EU to the UK, and back from the UK to anywhere in the UK.

UK and EU trucks will also be able to perform up to two additional operations in the other party’s territory, once they have crossed the border.

This will allow EU hauliers that carry a load to the UK to perform two cabotage operations in the UK, thus limiting the risk of having to travel back to the EU without a load. 

For UK hauliers, these additional operations can be composed of two cross-trade operations (i.e. transport operations between two Member States) or one cross-trade and one “cabotage” operation (i.e. a transport operation within two points of a single Member State). Special provisions are made in the case of Ireland, as Northern Irish hauliers will be able to perform two cabotage operations in Ireland.

ECMT holders will be able to do 3 cabotage operations.

COVID-19 Return to Work Safely Protocol (Ireland)

Ireland (the Republic of Ireland) has a staged programme of release of COVID-19 restrictions. On 9 May, the Irish state published a Return to Work Safely Protocol.

This Protocol is here.

The Protocol asserts – (I have separated some of the sentences to make reading easier – this is not the full Protocol, please follow the link to the actual document)

Adherence to this protocol will only be achieved if employers and workers have a shared responsibility to implement the measures contained in this protocol in their place of work. A collaborative approach to the implementation of the protocol is essential to achieve success and maximum buy-in.

Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their place of work. The person(s) undertaking the role must receive the necessary training and have a structured framework to follow within the organisation to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

Employers will have regular and meaningful engagement with their worker representative, workers and/or their recognised Trade Union or other representatives (including their Health and Safety Committee where this exists) about the measures being put in place to address the occupational exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Employers will provide a COVID-19 induction training for all workers.

The number of worker representatives for COVID-19 appointed will, ideally, be proportionate to the number of workers in the workplace and this person should be clearly identifiable in the workplace.

Employers and worker representatives will work together to ensure that all the actions in this protocol are fully adhered to in order to ensure the suppression of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Note that this Protocol is not intended to replace the existing measures that essential businesses, which have continued to operate, have already implemented. However, such businesses should review their existing measures to ensure they are in line with this Protocol.

The Protocol should be used by all workplaces to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE (the Irish state public health authority, not to be confused with the HSA which is the Irish state workplace Health and Safety authority). It sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers the steps that they must take before a workplace reopens, and while it continues to operate.

A high-level consultative stakeholder forum, under the aegis of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, will be established. This forum will include membership from the various bodies with responsibility for health and safety at work and for public health more generally. The forum will allow for ongoing engagement at national level on implementation issues in light of evolving public health advice and other factors.

COVID-19 Roadmap (Ireland)

Per its COVID-19 law, the Irish state reviewed its COVID-19 lockdown (premises restrictions etc) last week and issued a Roadmap of dates of easing of the lockdown rules.

This Roadmap is here. The next stage applies from tomorrow. This next stage has no lifting of premises restrictions or allowance for outdoor work.

I posted some days ago with the EU Joint Roadmap for setting a unified approach to easing lockdown rules in EU member states.

The EU Joint Roadmap is here.

On the island of Ireland, the Northern Ireland jurisdiction of the UK has the capacity to issue separate instructions that differ from those on the neighbouring island of Britain (jurisdiction of the UK), but is unlikely to do this to a substantive extent. Both legal entities north and south of the border on the island of Ireland exchange information about their respective COVID-19 rules regularly.

The UK state will review its COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday, and is circulating privately (unpublished as yet) new Workplace Rules. I wrote a separate Blog post about this.

COVID-19 Information for Businesses (Ireland)

NSAI (the National Standards Authority of Ireland) issued (27th March) a Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide – here.

This recommends Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay home if they are well enough to do so or contact the health service if they are acutely unwell. They should not come to work and should restrict their movements for 14 days from symptom onset, the last five days of which should be fever free.

Employers can also put up appropriate signage on their premises and generally communicate the HSE (Health Service Executive) recommendations to prevent infection spread. The HSE have created posters which employers can use which are available here.

The Department of Health has (26th March) issued guidance for supply chain workers – here.

This specifies that Drivers should follow social isolation guidelines. This applies both when they are abroad and also in Ireland. This means they should limit their contact with others to the greatest extent possible both during work time and when not working. If contact with others is unavoidable, leave a distance of at least 2 metres.

Instructions are set out for shop workers and other workers.

The HSE has general guidance (1st April) – here.

This specifies people movement restrictions.

The government’s essential services detail (published 28th March) in the general stay at home instruction until the 12th April is here.

The government’s public health measures in place until 12th April (published 1st April) is here.

The government introduced emergency legislation to restrict movement two-and-a-half weeks ago.

But according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, gardaí had no powers to enforce it because the necessary regulations had not been signed.

Mr Harris signed the regulations on Tuesday night (last night).

Climate Action (Ireland)

On 17 June 2019, the Irish Government published the Climate Action Plan 2019 (CAP), which commits to bring forward a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill for publication in Q1 2020.

The Climate Action Plan 2019 is here.

The new Bill will amend the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and provide for a strengthened statutory framework for continual long-term planning. In due course this legislation will be added to subscribers’ Ireland EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists.

On 19 December 2019, the Irish Government approved the publication of the General Scheme for the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2019 (essentially the Heads of Terms of the new Bill).

The General Scheme for the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2019 is here.

The Bill aims to enshrine in law the approach outlined in the Climate Action Plan, including:

* Establishing a 2050 emissions reduction target in law (the Government has already backed the adoption of a net-zero target at EU level and says that it will continue to support this level of ambition going forward).

* Making the adoption of 5-year carbon budgets a legal requirement, starting in 2021, the Minister would bring these to the Oireachtas (Legislature) for scrutiny, if rejected they would be revised.

* Strengthening the role of the Climate Action Council in recommending the appropriate climate budget and policies, as well as requiring decarbonisation targets across all sectors, including transport, agriculture, housing and energy. The Council will replace the existing Climate Change Advisory Council that has been widely viewed as under-resourced and too heavily stocked with economists. The proposed Bill would see the Director of Met Éireann join the Council and a limit of two terms for the chairperson.

* Requiring the Government to set a decarbonisation target range for each sector. The Minister with primary responsibility for each sector will be accountable for delivering the relevant actions to meet the sectoral target and for reporting annually on the delivery of their actions and the achievement of sectoral emission targets.

* Giving the Oireachtas a central role in the setting of the carbon budget and overseeing progress to delivery (see above).

* Banning the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030, the Bill also seeks to stop the granting of NCTs for such vehicles from 2045.

* Establishing that the Climate Action Plan shall be updated annually, with actions in every sector.

Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy (Ireland)

Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is seeking views on the development of a new Waste Action Plan for Ireland as part of the move to a more Circular Economy where resources are kept in use for as long as possible and then recycled or reused at the end of their service life. 

This consultation will enable Ireland  develop a new waste policy / circular economy plan to meet the emerging challenges and build on the targets set out in the Climate Action Plan (separate Blog post on the Climate Action Plan, issued shortly). The completed policy will also match the level of ambition in the Waste and Climate areas being shown across the EU.

The Public Consultation will close at 5pm on Friday 21st February 2020

The consultation document is here

Please see the related consultation documents here

Circular Economy Waste Package (Ireland)

The Circular Economy Waste Package is a collection of directives from the EU which have to be translated into EU member state law:

* Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/850 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/849 of 30 May 2018 amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment

These directives, which will amend the existing legislation of EU member states, increase current waste-management targets while introducing some new ones. They strengthen requirements around waste prevention, extend producer responsibility, and streamline definitions, while reporting on obligations and calculation methods for targets.

I blog posted about these amendments a while back. The consolidated EU Directives are supplied in Cardinal EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists (paid subscribers will have access to, as tailored).

EU Member States, including Ireland, are required to transpose these four directives into national law by 5 July 2020.

On 30th December 2019, the Irish Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment announced it is seeking views on this transposition process through a public consultation.

Along with the four directives mentioned above, the Single Use Plastic Directive (EU 2019/904) (SUP Directive) is also going to be transposed into national law, by 5 July 2021. This directive contains enhanced provisions to those contained in the Circular Economy Waste Package. I blog posted about this Directive as well, and it will be added to paid subscribers Registers & Checklists systems.

Given the links between the directives, Ireland is also seeking views on the transposition of the SUP Directive.

The deadline for consultation is 5pm, Friday 21, February, 2020.

The consultation document is – here.

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.