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Less than four months remain until the end of the transition period. The European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) are negotiating a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but no agreement remains an option. Firms are being advised – once again – to prepare for the consequences of the UK’s EU exit, notably the changes to trade and the Customs documentation that will be required. From 1 January 2021, Great Britain (GB) is to be outside of the EU Single Market and Customs Union. Businesses in Ireland who move goods from, to or through GB will be subject to new Customs formalities and regulatory requirements, regardless of the outcome of the EU-UK FTA negotiations. As to NI, there are to be no tariffs or Customs controls on the island of Ireland, with or without an FTA. NI is to remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules and the Union Customs Code, VAT and excise rules will apply to all goods entering or leaving NI. 

Scenario Planning: The Irish Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan (9 September 2020) has identified two possible Brexit scenarios. 

1) A limited FTA, with zero tariffs or quotas and requiring checks, controls and a Customs declarations for EU-GB trade.

2) Trading on WTO terms, with tariffs, quotas, checks, controls and Customs declarations for EU-GB trade.

Businesses should identify where goods originate and move from, to or though GB, the EU, Ireland and Northern Ireland, as this will determine the Customs controls.

Ireland (EU) to Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland to the Ireland (EU)

There are to be no tariffs or Customs controls on the island of Ireland (FTA or no FTA), per the Withdrawal Agreement’s Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

On 7 August the UK published its policy paper “Moving Goods Under The Northern Ireland Protocol”, confirming that trade in goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and EU will continue unaffected – no paperwork, tariffs or regulatory checks.

GB to EU (including Ireland)

The European Commission has said that full Customs formalities will apply from 1 January 2021, to all goods entering the EU from GB, even with an FTA.

The EU has been publishing sector specific Readiness Notices to help business prepare for the post-transition arrangements. 

EU (including Ireland) to GB

On 13 July the UK published its Border Operating Model, relating only to GB imports from the EU,  announcing that it will introduce new border controls in three stages.

Stage 1 (From 1 January 2021). For imports of standard goods, declarations and duty payments will be deferred until end June 2021. GB importers should consider how they will account for and pay VAT on imported goods (potentially relevant to Irish firms depending on Incoterms). Customs declarations will be needed from 1 January 2021 for controlled and excise goods (e.g. alcohol and tobacco) and physical checks will take place at the point of destination for high-risk live animals and plants, with a requirement to pre-notify for certain movements.

Stage 2 (From April 2021). Pre-notification and health documentation will be required for products of animal origin (e.g. egg products, honey, meat, milk), regulated plants and plant products. Physical checks will continue be conducted at the point of destination.

Stage 3 (From July 2021). Full Customs declarations will be required at the point of import for all goods and the payment of tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations.  Sanitary and phytosanitary checks carried out at GB Border Control Posts.

The European Commission has said that Customs formalities will apply to all goods leaving the EU Customs territory for the UK.

Key Actions

The UK Internal Market Bill may lead to some changes in this guidance.

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