Brexit - UK draft legislation on the definition of qualifying NI goods

Friday, 9 October, 2020


As part of the UK government's commitment to provide unfettered access for Northern Ireland (NI) businesses and goods to the internal UK market after the end of the Brexit transition period from 1 January 2021, a Statutory Instrument (SI) on qualifying NI goods was laid in Parliament on Wednesday (7 October). The UK Government's priority in the immediate term is on avoiding disruption and ensuring maximum continuity from the end of the transition period for traders in NI, and this reflects the broader approach they are taking in the first half of next year for Great Britain (GB) - European Union (EU) trade. 

This statutory instrument provides unfettered access for goods in “free circulation” in NI that is:

  • Any good that is present in NI (and not subject to any customs supervision, restriction or control which does not arise from the goods being taken out of the territory of NI or the EU);
  • Any good that has undergone processing operations in NI incorporating either domestic goods or goods not under customs supervision, restriction or control at the time of processing.

This approach is intended by government to ensure no changes for NI businesses moving goods directly to the rest of the UK from 1 January 2021 compared with now. 

The protection of the integrity of the NI agri food supply chain, our ability to process NI farm produce in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) under the control of NI businesses, and the indirect transit of our agri food products via Dublin to the GB market are major issues for the UFU which we have repeatedly raised in many meetings with Ministers and UK government officials. The government have clarified that this SI is part of a phased approach, intended to be no more than a bridge to a longer-lasting regime. They will continue to develop this with NI business representatives, and the NI Executive with the intention that it will be introduced as swiftly as possible in 2021. The next phase of this regime will further focus the benefits on NI businesses and reinforce their competitive advantage over traders elsewhere on the island of Ireland.

They also intend in the meantime to prevent any traders seeking to abuse the system from ‘day one’ by accompanying the qualification regime with anti-avoidance provisions in law by the end of this year that enable action to be taken where a business looks to re-route their goods to avoid import formalities - the UFU position is that it is essential that this does not impact on the traditional processing of NI farm produce in the ROI.