The UK has vowed to have no checks at the Irish land border for goods crossing into Northern Ireland in the event of ‘no deal’ departure from the European Union.
The government said this morning: “Recognising the unique social, political and economic circumstances of Northern Ireland, the UK government would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland in a no deal scenario, including no customs declarations for normal goods.
“The UK temporary import tariff announced today would therefore not apply to goods crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland.”
A statement from British officials added: “In this [no deal] scenario, the UK government’s priority would be to enter into discussions urgently with the European Commission and the Irish government to jointly agree long-term measures to avoid a hard border.”
It said: “Recognising the unique social, political and economic circumstances of Northern Ireland, the UK government would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland in a no deal scenario, including no customs declarations for normal goods. The UK temporary import tariff announced today would therefore not apply goods crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland.”
The government says its border plan is a temporary measure and that there will be no onward checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or vice versa. It also says that zero tariffs would not apply to products moving from Ireland to Great Britain via Northern Ireland.
It is understood that the anti avoidance measures would not mean checks at the Northern Ireland or Scotland ports but would be done via other methods.
It is believed that the government believes the disapplication of tariffs in Northern Ireland is compatible with international law.
The government’s statement this morning added: “The government recognises that Northern Ireland’s businesses and farmers will have concerns about the impact that the government’s approach will have on their competitiveness. However these are the only steps the UK government can unilaterally take to deliver on our absolute commitment to avoid a hard border in the event of no deal.”
It said: “To prevent unfair treatment of Northern Ireland businesses, goods arriving from Ireland would still be subject to the same VAT and Excise duty as today and the and the UK government would continue to collect these taxes on Irish goods in future.
“VAT registered businesses would continue to account for VAT on their normal VAT returns.
“Small businesses trading across the border and not currently VAT registered would be able to report VAT online periodically, without any new processes at the border.
“As in Great Britain, businesses currently registered on the EU excise system would register on a UK equivalent.”
The statement said: “To protect human, animal and plant health, animals and animal products from countries outside the EU would need to enter Northern Ireland through a designated entry point, regulated plant material from outside the EU and high risk EU plant material will require certification and pre-notification before arriving in the UK.
“Plants and plant products from a non-EU country which have not been previously checked by an EU member state would also be checked at authorised inland trade premises.”
More information to follow.