UK’s Trader Support Service - by the TSS Consortium

Nov 04, 2020

If you need help with customs and move goods between Great Britain and NI or bring goods into NI from outside the UK, you might find the Trader Support Service (TSS) helps. We hear from representatives of a consortium selected by the UK government to deliver the TSS about what it can do and how you can register for the service.

An Introduction to the TSS

Writes Shanker Singham, Frank Dunsmuir, and Kevin Shakespeare – The TSS Consortium

Traders across the UK should not lose sight of the fact that the NI Protocol (NIP) becomes effective on 1 January 2021, regardless of whether the UK and EU reach a deal.  Unlike GB’s external borders, where there will be a phased approach to customs controls with transitional processes in place for up to six months, the GB-NI boundary must be fully operational for 1 January 2021.

In part, to recognise the difficulty that full implementation of the NIP may cause some traders who don’t think of themselves as involved in international trade because they buy and sell entirely within the UK, the government has created the Trader Support Service which is free, at the point of use service for traders. The TSS is intended to fill a gap for NI traders who would otherwise have to pay customs declarations to trade across the GB/NI boundary.

When the NIP is implemented on 1 January 2021, many things will change for people and firms who sell goods into NI from GB.  They will need to fill in customs declarations and may need to pay duties if their goods are at risk of entering Ireland through the porous NI/Ireland border which is a key aspect of the NIP. Precisely how duties, and potential rebates of those duties will operate is a matter for the UK and EU negotiations in the Joint Committee which the NIP set up, so it is not possible give total clarity on this point now. The most important thing for traders is that they register on the TSS portal (at tradersupportservice.co.uk ).  TSS cannot help those traders with customs declarations, or indeed with the wider training and education that the TSS offers without knowing details about the trader. So registration is critical if you wish to use this service.

You may not think of yourself as a trader in the sense of international trade if you have only traded between GB and NI. You might be a company in Derry buying tools from a supplier in Wales. You might maintain a UK-wide computer distribution chain. In both cases, even though you might never have engaged in international trade, you will now need to put in place some of the processes typically associated with international trade in respect of your GB to NI movements. 

So how will specific trader journeys change? 

There will be changes for goods moving between GB and NI:

For goods moving from NI to GB, the NIP generally provides for unfettered access. In practical terms, this means that there will not be any new tariffs, checks or controls except for a narrow category of controlled goods. Broadly, this means goods that are subject to treaties of which the EU is a member (such as CITES, or the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme governing the trade in rough diamonds), or goods where EU and UK rules, such as export controls, may differ. In these limited cases, export declarations will be required. 

For goods moving between NI and Ireland there will be no new processes, tariffs or controls, but any process that exists now will continue in the future.

Many traders trade goods between GB and NI via the Holyhead to Dublin route because it makes more logistical sense. They will still be able to do so in the future, but there will be some important differences.  First, they will need to use transit  procedures through the Irish portion of the route; and, secondly, their goods (if they are agri-food products or products to which SPS rules apply) will be subject to applicable SPS checks at border control posts or other authorised venues.

Any trade between NI and the rest of the world will continue to be subject to customs procedures as they are today. Goods imported from the rest of the world may be subject to either UK or EU tariffs, depending on their intended final destination.

TSS will help with doing customs declarations for traders by using simplified customs processes and under the customs facilitations and authorisations which TSS has.  TSS will also educate and train traders, not only in the specific customs declarations and how they will work, but also on wider issues related to the movement of goods from and to NI. This includes SPS and regulatory issues where checks will be needed because NI is in the EU’s regulatory zone for SPS and technical regulations under the NIP.

The most important thing at this time is to register so that TSS is aware of you and can onboard your data so that declarations can be made on your behalf.  Once you register you can also avail of the numerous training courses which the TSS provides. Registration is also the only way that you can be auto-enrolled for an XI EORI number which will be important for trade.  Registration is easy and free.  About four thousand traders have already registered. Don’t get left behind!