UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements: the Northern Ireland Protocol

UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements: the Northern Ireland Protocol

Robert Marchant, Partner, VAT
UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements: the Northern Ireland Protocol

In a second policy paper issued this month, the government has provided additional details in relation to its intended trading arrangements from 1 January 2021. This further paper provides proposals in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol and specifically how Northern Ireland’s trading arrangements may work after the Brexit transitional period comes to an end. 

By way of reminder, following the official departure of the UK from the European Union on 31 January 2020, the UK is currently in a period of transitition; negotiations are taking place to decide what form the UK’s relationship with the EU and other countries will take, in particular trading arrangements, including both VAT and Customs Duty. The unique position of Northern Ireland is considered in this paper. 

The paper is wide ranging but the core of it focuses on customs and trade. A four part plan is set out for how Northern Ireland will trade with the UK and EU - the summary of this plan is copied below:

  1. Trade going from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK: this should take place as it does now. There should be no additional process or paperwork and there will be no restrictions on Northern Ireland goods arriving in the rest of the UK - that is, there will be unfettered access, as provided for by the Protocol.
  2. Trade going from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland: we will not levy tariffs on goods remaining within the UK customs territory. Only those goods ultimately entering Ireland or the rest of the EU, or at clear and substantial risk of doing so, will face tariffs.
  3. Although there will be some limited additional process on goods arriving in Northern Ireland, this will be conducted taking account of all flexibilities and discretion, and we will make full use of the concept of dedramatisation. There will be no new physical customs infrastructure and we see no need to build any. We will however expand some existing entry points for agrifood goods to provide for proportionate additional controls.
  4. Trade to and from Northern Ireland from third countries: this will be handled in accordance with these principles and, where the UK has Free Trade Agreements with those countries, Northern Ireland businesses will benefit from preferential tariffs just as the rest of the UK will.

The policy paper can be accessed here

At the time of writing, there are around six months until the Brexit transitional period ends, so the publication of these proposals will be helpful for those organisations developing their Brexit contingency plans that trade to/with Northern Ireland to understand the direction of travel with the government’s international trade plans. 

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Robert Marchant
Robert Marchant
Partner, VAT and Customs Duty services