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Northern Ireland remains an anomaly for the next phase of Brexit

Managing trade with Northern Ireland has been a complicated issue during Brexit:

The nation is a part of the United Kingdom but shares its only land border with the Republic of Ireland, who remain part of the European Union.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland do not have a customs border due to the need to keep the peace between the 2 nations and honour the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday Agreement). This effectively keeps the nation inside the EU single market, and is a priority due to the politic uncertainty that remains in Northern Ireland.

The EU require that any goods moving from the United Kingdom to the Republic of Ireland conform to the same standards as the rest of the EU.

Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory, and so trade between NI and the remainder of the U.K. should be free from restriction as part of the Acts of Union

The result is that NI is in a position where the free circulation of goods should be allowed with both the Republic of Ireland and mainland United Kingdom, but a customs border is required between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland due to Brexit. 

How has Northern Ireland traded since Brexit?

Since a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would likely reignite tensions between the 2 nations, peace has taken precedence over customs territories.

A customs border was placed at the sea between NI and the rest of the mainland U.K., and the Northern Ireland Protocol was created to manage the trade between the 2 areas. 

The agreement was immediately met with distain from traders moving goods between NI and mainland U.K. as customs clearance became necessary on both sides of the border. 

This required immediate education on previously needless trading information, such as INCOTERMS and documentation requirements for customs clearance.

Due to the physical requirements of installing customs borders, and the time required to implement systems for traders and customs brokers, the NI Protocol grace periods have been extended many times. 

There have several calls to invoke Article 16, which allows either the U.K or the EU to suspend any part of the NI Protocol that causes economic, societal or environmental difficulties. However, it has not been triggered due to the lack of an alternative solution.

Brexit Minister David Frost has been leading the talks with the EU on a solution for the NI Protocol, but has resigned this week due to a lack of faith in the U.K.’s current political direction around the coronavirus, Northern Ireland, and taxes. 

His resignation leaves the U.K. with the need to appoint another person to take over talks with the EU at a sensitive time with the new wave of Brexit restrictions coming in January 2022.

How will the next phase of Brexit affect Northern Ireland? 

Further checks are coming during the next phrase of Brexit in January 2022:

Restrictions on importing food from the EU.

Requirements for goods vehicles moving between the EU and UK.

Stricter measures for claiming 0% duty on EU imports.

Due to the continuing uncertainty in Northern Ireland, it has been announced this week that pre-notification of animal and plant products on IPAFFS will not be required for goods moving between Northern Ireland and mainland United Kingdom. The exception to this rule is for plants of high risk that have been monitored since January 2021.

Need advice on the next wave of Brexit?

Regulations are due to change again on the 1st January, 2022. If you would like to know the latest details on Brexit, please download our free Brexit pack so that you can prepare yourselves and your suppliers for the new year.

If you require any further assistance on Northern Ireland, please contact one of our experts.


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