It was today revealed that the European Commission is unlikely to accept the Government’s proposition of a two-year extension to the Northern Ireland grace period.
With reports suggesting that the Union will consider a three-to-six-month extension at best, what does this mean for businesses transporting goods into Northern Ireland?
What is the Northern Ireland grace period?
Announced hours before the end of the Brexit transition period, the Northern Ireland grace period exempts businesses transporting certain goods – such as meat and dairy products – into Northern Ireland from customs processes until 01 April 2021.
When will the grace period end?
The grace period is unlikely to be extended for a further two years. Reports suggest that the grace period will be extended by three months, putting the end date in July, to a maximum of six months, moving the end date to October.
What will happen at the end of the grace period?
Whether it is July, October, or somewhere in between, the end of the grace period will bring the Northern Ireland protocol into force.
The protocol was originally imposed to prevent controlled goods from moving into the European Union via Northern Ireland without following the correct customs processes.
This means certain goods coming into Northern Ireland ports will become subject to strict EU customs rules, despite the Brexit deal allowing for tariff-free trade.
The processes and new requirements include:
- Firms sending products of animal origin – such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy – to Northern Ireland will be legally required to complete Export Health Certificates (EHC) to ensure they meet EU standards. A vet or similar professional must sign off every consignment.
- Some meat products, like sausages, have a six-month grace period before customs processes come into force.
- Firms will need to complete customs declarations for commercial parcels entering Northern Ireland.
- Personal parcels carrying goods valued at £135 or less do not need to be declared, but parcels containing excise goods, such as alcohol, do.
- More information on all of the new customs processes can be found here.