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Content is continuously being updated as negotiations develop.

  • The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
  • There is now a transition period until the end of 2020.
  • The transition period critically gives businesses the opportunity to prepare for a new trading relationship.
  • The current rules on trade will continue to apply during the transition period.
  • The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol ensures no custom controls on North/South trade in goods.
  • Northern Ireland will remain aligned with the EU Custom Code, including laws for VAT.
  • Northern Ireland will also align with specific EU rules in areas such as technical regulation of goods, agriculture and environmental production, regulation and state-aid.
  • Goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland won’t be subject to a tariff unless the good is “at risk” of being moved into the EU.
  • InterTradeIreland will keep you informed as changes emerge. In the meantime to help you prepare we’ll continue to offer support and advice to cross-border traders.

Before we get started

You might have a few questions…

What is the transition period?

The transition period is from 31st January 2020 until 31st December 2020.

The transition period will be used to prepare for new rules and for negotiation with the EU, securing a UK-EU trade deal will be top a priority.

If the negotiations go to plan, any changes will take effect from 1st January 2021.

During the transition period, all current trading remains the same as it does today (following all the EU rules). This meaning no checks or paperwork during this time.

What is a free trade agreement?

These are complex agreements which in simple terms make it easier to trade goods (and sometimes services) between countries. Ways of doing this include little or no government tariffs (taxes on imports and exports), quotas (limits on the amount of goods that can be traded), subsidies (benefits) and more.

When the UK was part of the EU it did not need a free trade agreement, but as the UK is technically not a member of the EU (as of 31st January 2020) it means the UK is able to negotiate and sign trade deals around the world. One of the priorities of the transition period is to agree a UK and EU trade deal.

What is the Northern Ireland protocol?

The Northern Ireland protocol is a name given to a new approach which replaces the backstop (which was to ensure no hard borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland, if no formal Brexit deal was reached). Now that a deal has been reached, the Northern Ireland protocol sets out the future relationship on regulations, customs duties, VAT and consent. 

What is consent?

Four years after the end of the transition period, the UK must provide the Northern Ireland Assembly with the opportunity to give consent to the trade elements of the protocol, for example on goods and customs, the Single Electricity Market, VAT and state aid. Every four years afterwards, the UK will provide an opportunity for democratic consent to these ongoing arrangements in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, within the framework set by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. If consent is withheld, the arrangements will not enter into force or will lapse (as the case may be) after one year, and arrangements will default to existing rules.

What are the important dates?

Here are some of the most important dates for Brexit from March 2020 onwards.

March 3 2020

Future EU and UK relationship negotiations begin. A free trade agreement one of the most important priorities.

June 2020

A summit is due to take place to assess the negotiation developments. A decision needs to be made if there will be an extension to the transition period.

November 26 2020

A trade deal must be negotiated, checked, translated and presented to the European Parliament if it is to be passed by the 31st December 2020. 

December 31 2020

Transition period ends. If a trade deal has not been agreed the EU and UK will likely trade on WTO rules. This means import duties and various controls imposed on trade between the UK and the EU.

What do you need to do now?

We recommend that cross-border traders undertake an in-depth supply chain analysis and explore the onward destination of their product. We’ve created a free bitesize guide to supply chain, covering these recommended actions and much more.

Send us your questions and feedback