Customs: The Northern Ireland Protocol Deciphered

Dec 16, 2020

The Protocol is designed to maintain an all-island economy and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland regardless of the Brexit outcome. This means that from 1 January 2021, a different Customs (and VAT) regime will exist in Northern Ireland. Agreement in principle was reached by the EU and UK on the implementation of the Protocol on 10 December 2020. The Institute has engaged extensively with HMRC on these proposed changes and will continue to do so next year on your behalf.

You can read the details of the agreement in principle reached by the EU and the UK at as well as the draft decisions made on the determination of goods “not at risk” (we have analysed this guidance in a separate story). You can also read the Institute’s guides on what the Protocol means for both Customs and VAT rules for trade between NI and GB, ROI and NI, and ROI and GB.

Broadly, the Customs changes under the Protocol are as follows:

  • NI will follow a limited set of the rules of the EU Single market for goods.
  • While NI will remain part of the UK’s Customs territory, there will be cases where NI will follow EU Customs.
  • NI will continue to follow the EU’s safety standards for goods so that there will be no need for regulatory checks on goods crossing the land border into ROI.
  • NI businesses shipping NI goods to Great Britain (GB) should have unfettered access to that market, meaning no Customs declarations are needed generally.
  • For goods entering NI from GB, EU tariffs will only apply on those goods that are at risk of being moved to ROI/EU.
  • For goods moving from GB to NI, a UK Trader Scheme authorisation must be applied for by 31 December 2020 to declare goods “not at risk” of entering the EU from 1 January 2021.
  • For agri-food moving from GB to NI, authorised traders (such as supermarkets and their trusted suppliers) will have a grace period until 1 April 2021 from official certification of certain products of animal and plant origin, and there will be minimum checks of these products at NI ports for 6 months.

Our ‘At a glance’ series gives you an overview of what changes will be in place from 1 January 2021 and examines trade between NI and GB, NI and ROI and ROI and GB. 

Brexit and VAT (NI)

Brexit and VAT (ROI)

Brexit and Customs (NI)

Brexit and Customs (ROI)

Common Transit Procedures