Reviewed in November 2020. Content will be updated as negotiations develop.

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 Great Britain will be subject to new Customs formalities and regulatory requirements, regardless of the outcome of the EU-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. There are to be no Customs or SPS controls on the island of Ireland, with or without a FTA.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Controls For Post-Transition Trade Between Ireland and GB

The export and import of live animals, products of animal origin (including fish), germinal products, animal by-products (i.e. not for human consumption) and some plants will be subject to additional SPS border checks. This is to reduce the risks of diseases, pests, or contaminants entering from third countries.

Prior to the goods being imported, they must be pre-notified by the importer to national authorities. I.e. for imports into the EU using the  Trade Control and Export System (TRACES), or for imports into GB using the  Import of Product, Animals, Food and Feed Systems (IPAFFS). 

Goods must then move through a Border Control Post (BCP) capable of handling those particular goods. For a list of BCP’s in the UK click  here and for Ireland click  here.

Checks can then be carried out, including:

  • Documentary checks e.g. an Export Health Certificate for animals/animal products, a phytosanitary certificate for some plants/plant products or a catch certificate for some fish.
  • Identity checks to verify that the goods match those on the documentation.
  • Physical checks, the frequency of which depends on the risk associated with a commodity – click here for more information.

It is the responsibility of the “operator responsible for the consignment” to ensure that the appropriate paperwork is in place. The operator responsible for the consignment can be the importer, but is often a Customs agent acting on the importer’s behalf.

GB Goods Entering Ireland

From 1 January 2021, full SPS checks will be imposed, with checks at BCPs and requirements for certificates, pre-notification through TRACES (24 hours before arriving at the BCP) and submitting the necessary documents via the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), or other import portal. 

For more information, see Irish Revenue’s October 2020 Presentation on Trading in Agricultural Goods – SPS Checks and Requirements

Goods From Ireland Entering GB

On 8 October the UK published its updated Border Operating model, introducing border controls in three stages for EU goods arriving in GB, with full SPS controls by July 2021. 

  • Stage 1 – From January 2021: Imports of high-risk live animals, plants and animal/plant products must be pre-notified to the UK authorities via IPAFFS, have correct health documentation and may be subject to checks. Physical checks will be carried out at the point of destination/other approved premises.
  • Stage 2 -From April 2021: Pre-notification (via IPAFFS) and health documentation will be required for all products of animal origin, regulated plants and plant products. Physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination/other approved premises.
  • Stage 3 – From July 2021: Goods requiring SPS checks will need to move through designated Border Control Posts equipped to handle the particular type of goods.
Wood Packaging Material

From 1 January 2021 all wood packaging associated with goods (e.g. boxes, crates, dunnage, pallets) moving between GB and the EU must meet ISPM15 International Standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. The UK has advised that it will carry out checks on a ” risk targeted basis only“. 


Irish Revenues advises that, from 1 January 2021, animals and goods moving between Ireland and another EU Member State via GB (the UK Landbridge) must be placed under the Customs Transit procedure, to maintain their Union status. EU regulations require certain SPS controls on animals and goods re-entering the Union. Discussions are ongoing to determine how this will work. 

Key Actions

The below will help advise you as to what you need to do next to get your business prepared ahead of 1 January 2021.

Verify what certificates are required to export/import the products.

Ask suppliers if they will be able to provide the health/phytosanitary/catch certificates and the time this will take.

Identify the operator responsible for the consignment. 

Register with national authorities, TRACES and/or IPAFFS.

For DAFM, see this link and contact

Decide how the consignment(s) will be presented at the Border Control Post – the simpler the load the quicker the import control process. 

Complete pre-notification and submit the correct documentation 24 hours in advance. 

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