1. Northern Ireland to Great Britain: unfettered access
As committed to in the New Decade, New Approach deal to restore the Northern Ireland Executive, the UK Government will guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses (including businesses headquartered in Great Britain with operations in Northern Ireland) to the rest of the UK internal market from 1 January 2021, ensuring that trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain continues for those businesses as it does now.
- 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 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
The UK Government’s unequivocal position is also that there should be no requirement to submit export or exit summary declarations for goods leaving Northern Ireland for the rest of the UK. This approach will require formal agreement between the UK and the EU via the UK-EU Joint Committee.
This special treatment will be available only to Northern Ireland businesses (including businesses headquartered in Great Britain with operations in Northern Ireland). Businesses in Ireland will need to follow the normal process for importing goods into the United Kingdom, including submitting customs declarations and paying any tariff duties that are due. The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 includes provision for the Government to define a qualifying status for goods and businesses in Northern Ireland benefitting from unfettered access. We are engaging with businesses and the Northern Ireland Executive on the means for delivering qualifying status, and will set out further details shortly.
Extremely limited exceptions
The default position as of 31 December 2020 will deliver unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the whole UK market – there will be no special processes applied where those businesses move goods into Great Britain. The only extremely limited exceptions to this approach apply where goods movements require bespoke processes, for example to take account of specific international obligations binding on the UK or the EU that apply as goods move from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (such as the requirements on the trade in endangered species). Where traders wish to make use of special procedures like duty suspense or transit, the ordinary processes required for the use of those facilitations also continue to apply. In addition if traders choose to make use of duty suspensive procedures, like Customs Special Procedures or transit, relevant processes will apply.
Those having to engage with these processes will be eligible for support under the Trader Support Service. Further guidance will be provided in due course.
We will ensure that the necessary procedures apply only to very minimal volumes of relevant trade necessary to comply with those obligations. For goods affected, the processes put in place in these very specific cases will have negligible implications for trade as a whole. The specific procedures that will apply will vary according to the nature of the good and the relevant obligations. As such, further guidance will follow outlining the requirements for the small number of traders involved in the movement of those goods.
2. Northern Ireland to Great Britain: placing goods on the market
Unfettered access not only means that qualifying goods will not be subject to processes or procedures as goods are moved from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. It also means that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to be able to place their goods on the market throughout the rest of the United Kingdom without new restrictions.
That will be the case whether such goods are manufactured and certified against EU or UK rules, though the requirements which apply for placing goods on the market will differ in each case (as set out below). In line with the overall approach to unfettered access, these requirements broadly reflect the status quo for Northern Ireland traders. And as outlined elsewhere, goods may be placed on the NI market only where they comply with the relevant rules.
For goods manufactured to UK rules:
- which do not require third-party conformity assessment, you will need to mark your good with the UKCA mark on the basis of self-certification
- which require mandatory third-party conformity assessment, you will need to use a UK body to certify that your good meets UK rules, and apply the UKCA mark
For goods manufactured to the specific goods rules in the Protocol:
- which do not require third-party conformity assessment, you will need to mark your good with the relevant EU conformity mark, usually the CE mark on the basis of self-certification. These goods will be accepted on the Northern Ireland market, as well as the rest of the UK market (i.e. Scotland, Wales, England)
- which do require mandatory third-party conformity assessment, you will be able to choose between using an EU notified body or a UK body to certify that the good meets EU rules. The UK will accept the results of mandatory conformity assessments carried out by EU conformity assessment bodies
- if you use an EU body, you will need to apply the relevant EU conformity mark, usually the CE mark
- if you use a UK body, you will need to apply the relevant EU conformity mark, usually the CE mark plus the new UK(NI) mark. Upcoming guidance on UK(NI) mark rules will set out what you need to do.
You will therefore not need to take any action after the end of the transition period if any of the following apply:
- you currently mark your good on the basis of self-certification (including if you voluntarily engage a notified body)
- any mandatory third-party conformity assessment is carried out by an EU notified body, indicated by the relevant EU conformity mark, usually the CE mark
You will need to take action if:
- any mandatory third-party conformity assessment against EU rules is carried out by a UK body. In this case, you will need to apply the UK(NI) mark in addition to the relevant EU conformity mark, usually the CE mark. Upcoming guidance on the UK(NI) mark rules will set out what you need to do.
Further guidance will be provided for Northern Ireland traders placing certain highly regulated goods on the Great Britain market.
As noted above, there will be separate considerations for relevant goods being placed on the Northern Ireland market. Check the relevant guidance for more information in that regard.