News article

Brexit: Avoiding a hard border in a no-deal scenario

13 March 2019

Government approach to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 11 April

The UK Government will 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 rates of customs duty for no deal would therefore not apply to goods crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland.

Only a small number of measures will be applied which are strictly necessary to comply with international legal obligations, protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, or to avoid the highest risks to Northern Ireland businesses — but these measures will not require checks at the land border.

Compliance with international legal obligations
To fulfil essential international obligations, there would be new requirements for importers and exporters to declare trade with the EU - specifically:

  • electronic notifications would be required for trade in dangerous chemicals, ozone-depleting substances and F-gases
  • Belfast International Airport would be the designated point of entry for endangered species and rough diamonds entering Northern Ireland
  • dual-use or torture goods would require a license for exports to the EU

These are the only new processes which would be introduced in order to meet the UK’s international legal obligations. There are no other products that would require new checks or processes.

Protecting the biosecurity of the island of Ireland

  • To protect human, animal, and plant health, animals and animal products from countries outside the EU would need to enter Northern Ireland through a Border Inspection Post and regulated plant material from outside the EU would require certification and checks at trader premises.
  • High-risk plant material entering Northern Ireland from the EU would require electronic pre-notification, replacing the current EU plant passport scheme.

Avoiding the highest risks to Northern Ireland businesses

  • To prevent unfair treatment of Northern Ireland businesses, goods arriving from Ireland would still be subject to the appropriate VAT and Excise duty as today 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, not currently VAT registered, would be able to report VAT online periodically, without any new processes at the border.
  • Irish businesses sending parcels to Northern Ireland would need to register with HMRC in order to ensure VAT was paid on these goods - but anyone in Northern Ireland receiving a gift sent from Ireland would not pay VAT as in Great Britain, businesses currently registered on the EU Excise system would register on a UK equivalent.

More information

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