Irish exporters get reprieve as post-Brexit checks on goods delayed

Varadkar welcomes extension while EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland protocol continue

Lorries at Holyhead port in Wales. The checks due to come in on January 1st are designed to bring post-Brexit customs arrangements between the UK and EU into line with those with the rest of the world. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Lorries at Holyhead port in Wales. The checks due to come in on January 1st are designed to bring post-Brexit customs arrangements between the UK and EU into line with those with the rest of the world. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has welcomed the British government’s announcement that it will delay the planned introduction of additional post-Brexit checks on Irish exports to the UK on January 1st.

The checks, which would have involved significant additional requirements, particularly for food and drink exporters, are being delayed while talks on the Northern Ireland protocol continue between the EU and UK.

Mr Varadkar said it was a “welcome and sensible move which will be good news for Irish exporters and farmers, especially at this time of year”.

He added: “Advice on preparing for future customs checks is available from Enterprise Ireland.”

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs was more cautious.

In a statement to The Irish Times, a spokesman for the department said: “The UK government has announced it is postponing the introduction of additional checks for goods moving from the island of Ireland to Great Britain, which had been planned for January 1st, 2022.

“These checks have only been delayed, not cancelled, so Irish businesses exporting to the UK should continue to prepare for their introduction in due course.”

Unilaterally

There is some unease in Government circles about the British government unilaterally treating Irish goods differently to goods from other EU countries. Officials stressed that Ireland had not sought the British move.

The UK left the EU trading bloc at the start of this year, but delayed the implementation of some checks, allowing importers of goods from the EU to delay making advance customs declarations and paying the relevant tariffs.

This was due to end on January 1st, but an extension has now been granted in relation to imports to the UK from Ireland. The imposition of additional requirements on food and drink exporters to the UK are also to be delayed. Notice of exports of food, drink and products of animal origin were due to have been given in advance.

The news will give more time to Irish exporters, who had been preparing for the new regime to come into force on January 1st.

Declarations

Carol Lynch, partner in BDO’s Customs and International Trade Service division, said this was good news for Irish exporters, who will not now need to lodge declarations in advance of departure of the goods from Ireland, while food exporters will not face immediate new Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks. The UK announcement did not give a new date for implementing the checks, saying it was contingent on talks on the protocol.

One issue to be clarified, according to Lynch, would be how the UK would separate out Irish goods from those from the rest of the EU, which would face the new rules from January 1st.

The checks due to come in on January 1st are designed to bring post-Brexit customs arrangements between the UK and EU into line with those with the rest of the world.

However, Brexit minister Lord Frost said the existing arrangements in relation to imports from the island of Ireland would continue on a temporary basis for goods crossing the Irish Sea for as long as the discussions on the protocol are ongoing.