Border trade not covered by simplified ‘no deal’ customs checks, UK says

Temporary procedures to make it easier for UK companies importing EU goods on lorries

The UK has excluded trade in goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from new simplified customs procedures on EU imports in the event of a hard Brexit.

In preparation for a "no deal" UK exit from the EU, HM Revenue and Customs has unveiled measures to help British importers bringing EU goods into the UK from continental Europe by reducing the amount of information they must provide and to delay the payment of duties.

The temporary simplified procedures are intended to make it easier for UK companies bringing goods into the UK from the EU on lorries through locations such as Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

The procedures are designed to minimise queues at key UK transit ports in a “crash-out” Brexit.


While uncertainty surrounds the treatment of trade across the Border, the move is highly significant for Irish exporters to Britain, according to Carol Lynch, a partner at BDO in Dublin.

The simplified procedure would allow Irish exporters who are VAT-registered and established in the UK to import goods and defer making a full declaration and defer customs duties until the month following import . This would simplify a lot of requirements for Irish exporters to Britain , she said.


Goods moving across the "Ireland land border" between Northern Ireland and Ireland are excluded from the new arrangements, according to a guidance note published by HM Revenue and Customs.

“The actions set out in this guidance do not apply to importing or exporting goods between Northern Ireland/Ireland. We will write to you with information about this as soon as we can,” says the note sent to 145,000 Vat-registered UK businesses that trade with the EU.

Neither the Irish or UK government has produced guidelines for customs checks on North-South trade in the event of the EU and UK failing to agree an alternative to the divorce deal’s backstop solution that would avoid a hard border.

HM Revenue and Customs has told UK businesses that the new procedures would make importing easier for a period of one year if the UK was to crash out of the EU without a deal at the end of March.

The guidance is intended to “allow businesses time to prepare for usual import processes,” HMRC says.

Firms must apply to participate in the “transitional simplified procedures” to transport goods into the UK without having to make a full customs declaration in advance and to postpone paying duties and Vat.


Under the changes, British importers bringing goods into the UK from the EU post-Brexit will not have to lodge a full declaration of the imported goods until after they have crossed the EU-UK border.

Any duties due on the imports will not have to be paid until the month after import in a move that will help UK businesses avoid immediate cashflow problems post-Brexit.

“Leaving the EU with a deal remains the government’s top priority. This has not changed,” said UK treasury minister Mel Stride in the guidance note.

“However, a responsible government must plan for every eventuality, including a no-deal scenario. Businesses and citizens should ensure they are similarly prepared for leaving the EU.”

The UK plans to review new arrangements known as “transition simplified procedures (TSP)” for customs between three and six months after they are introduced on March 29th, 2019.

The Government estimates that the UK-Ireland trading relationship is worth about €70 billion a year.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent