ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Brexit: Understand additional customs changes in Northern Ireland

Helpsheets and support

Published: 11 Nov 2020 Updated: 13 Jan 2021 Update History

Under the Trade and Cooperation agreement (TCA) between the UK and the EU, Northern Ireland has a unique status in the EU customs union and the UK. Businesses inside and outside Northern Ireland need to consider the implications of the protocol for their operations.

The protocol was established in the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. It It allows for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK’s customs territory while not introducing any new additional customs procedures for goods passing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There is already a customs border between the two for excise purposes (eg, Excise duties on tobacco, alcohol and fuel), however there is no physical border infrastructure. A key objective of the withdrawal agreement was to avoid new infrastructure at the border. It therefore allows for trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with:

  • no customs checks, paperwork or requirements
  • no tariffs or quotas applicable, nor checks on rules of origin

Any approvals or certifications required to place goods from Northern Ireland on the EU internal market will be recognised across the UK market.

The Common Travel Area, which predates the EU, means UK and Irish citizens are free to live or work in either country. Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

There have been no changes in how qualifying Northern Ireland goods move directly from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, but there are some changes for qualifying goods moved indirectly through Ireland. Declarations may be needed for goods that do not qualify (Check if you need to declare goods you bring into or take out of the UK). The Trader Support Service can help businesses make declarations. A Northern Ireland ‘XI’ EORI number will be needed to make declarations.

This qualifying goods regime forms part of a phased approach to the implementation of "unfettered access".

Bringing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain and from outside the EU

The Northern Ireland Protocol outlined that goods from Great Britain which are not deemed to be at risk of leaving the UK customs territory will not pay any tariffs. However, goods "at risk" of entering the EU’s single market will pay EU tariffs, where these apply. Tariffs could apply to goods that do not originate in the UK.

Declarations are now required when bringing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain or from outside the EU and it may be necessary to pay tariffs on some items. However, there are potential options available to avoid paying any tariffs when moving goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. These are:

  • claim a preferential rate of duty under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU. Goods that originate in the UK can enter the EU tariff-free
  • become authorised under the UK Trader Scheme and declare that your goods are not "at risk" of onward movement to the EU
  • claim a waiver on the duty up to specified limits

Additionally, the carrier will need to make safety and security declarations for shipments into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. These are known as "entry summary declarations" or "ENS". For movements into Northern Ireland they will need to made in the Import Control System. You will need to register and will require a Northern Ireland EORI number, that is one that starts with XI. Sanitary and phytosanitary checks will also apply to the goods subject to these rules, the checks have three parts including an electronic check to confirm the consignment of goods has the right commercial documentation and certification. See Sanitary and phytosanitary checks and Points of Entry.

When bringing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU, the UK duty rate will be payable if the goods are not "at risk" of onward movement to the EU.