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Northern Irish Goods: New Rules to NI-GB Trade Delayed

NI Businesses had hoped the uncertainty surrounding Brexit would be clarified by the end of the year when post-Brexit rules would be put in place. This will no longer be the case.

These plans have since been delayed, citing concerns over which goods qualify for unrestricted access when moving from NI to Britain. The current criteria for qualifying Northern Irish goods are vague, which is why the British government has always intended to narrow and refine it.

Free access for Northern Irish goods was a core Brexit promise from the UK government, with PM Boris Johnson promising ‘unfettered access’ in November 2019. This promise was made again through the Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods Regulations, which states that any goods in circulation in NI qualify as Northern Irish goods. British PM Boris Johnson, stated EU goods do not qualify if they are moved through NI to GB for “avoidance purposes”.

The UK government indicated that there have been plans to tighten the qualifying criteria legislation ever since it was published in October 2020. The initial vague definition was seen as necessary to prevent any possible trade disruptions and maintain continuity. The definition of a qualifying good will be refined by the UK Government over time to allow only “genuine” Northern Irish goods and businesses to benefit from unrestricted access.

‘Major Changes’ to Northern Ireland Protocol

Recently, the criteria had been adjusted by the UK Government so that only businesses that had been “established” in Northern Ireland will benefit from unrestricted access. It is still unknown what this will mean in practice.

The definition of qualifying goods is likely to come into sharper focus when the government starts implementing new controls on goods moving from the EU to GB. In October 2021, EU agri-food products will need export health certificates to enter GB, with physical checking of goods starting in 2022. That could increase the incentive for manufacturers and producers in the Republic of Ireland to route British exports through Northern Ireland.

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