Overseas Trade: Republic of Ireland

Department for Exiting the European Union written question – answered on 2nd August 2019.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Liberal Democrat, Streatham

To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, what additional procedures companies will face in order to trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal; and whether those procedures will be different to procedures at any other UK border.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The Government is steadfast in our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and will do everything in our power to ensure no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

On 13 March, the UK Government announced a unilateral approach to checks, processes and tariffs for trade moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This policy aims to retain the status quo as far as possible by doing all we can to avoid a hard border. This approach is strictly temporary.

The UK Government will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland, including any new customs declarations for nearly all goods. The UK temporary tariff regime would therefore not apply to goods crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland.

We would need to apply a small number of measures strictly necessary to comply with international legal obligations, protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, or to avoid the highest risks to Northern Ireland businesses - but these measures would not require checks at the border. Expressly:

  • Businesses pay VAT and Excise on goods from Ireland today and the UK Government would continue to collect these taxes on Irish goods in future. Small businesses trading across the border and not currently VAT registered would be able to report VAT online periodically without any new processes at the border. Traders would need to make electronic declarations for excise goods.

  • To protect human, animal, and plant health, animals and animal products from countries outside the EU would need to enter Northern Ireland through a designated entry point and regulated plant material from outside the EU and high risk EU plant material would require certification. Plants and plant products which have not been previously checked by an EU Member state would need to be pre-notified before arriving in the UK and checked at authorised inland trade premises.

  • To fulfil essential international obligations, there would be new UK import requirements such as checks on documents or registration for a very limited set of goods, such as endangered species and hazardous chemicals. This would not involve any infrastructure or checks at the border including in Northern Ireland.

Because these are unilateral measures, they only mitigate the impact of exit that are within the UK Government’s control. These measures do not set out the position in respect of tariffs or processes to be applied to goods moving from Northern Ireland to Ireland. The Irish Government has so far not set out their position on the procedures for goods moving across the land border from Northern Ireland to Ireland.

In a no deal scenario, we are committed to entering into discussions urgently with the European Commission and the Irish Government to jointly agree long-term measures to avoid a hard border.

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