#BrexitReality Bites: 3 electronic Customs Forms for Northern Ireland trade: Ouch that hurts!

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Earlier this year I said that Northern Ireland is the Brexit Winner! They get to be the only region that best of both worlds. In the UK and - somehow - in the EU Single Market. With the Guardian's leak of classified information, on how GB-NI Border Controls will work from 2021, my opinion has not changed. Northern Ireland businesses still win, its just that England, Scottish and Welsh business lose. Please allow me to explain.


Terminology sorted Let's get language straight first:

  • UK = United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

  • GB = Great Britain without Northern Ireland (aka England, Wales and Scotland or the UK mainland)

  • NI = Northern Ireland

  • The Republic of Ireland = The island of Ireland without Northern Ireland = Eire

A special situation Very early on in the negotiations ahead of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, both the United Kingdom and the EU acknowledged the unique situation of Ireland and Northern Ireland. They agreed that a specific solution was needed to reconcile the different interests at play. The WINNER: Northern Ireland This solution was found benefits Northern Ireland in four ways:


  1. Avoids a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and safeguards the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions;

  2. Preserves the integrity of the EU’s single market, along with all the guarantees it offers in terms of consumer protection, public and animal health, or combatting fraud and trafficking,

  3. Maintains Northern Ireland in the UK customs territory so that it may benefit from future Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that the UK may conclude with third countries.

  4. No admin from NI -> GB

N.I gets it all: Single Market Access without being part of EU

This means that Northern Ireland gets to follow EU Customs Rules without being part of the EU Customs Territory. It gets full access to the Single Market of the EU without being part of the EU. It gets access to some 450 million citizens (including unhindered access to the Republic of Ireland) without any Free Trade Agreement having to be signed.


. Part of the UK Customs Territory At the same time, it gets to be part of the UK Customs Territory. So no need for any controls or checks getting into your own territory, at least in theory (what to do with goods coming from the EU Single Market - how to check that they comply with UK rules?). It can also benefit from Free Trade Agreements that the UK concludes. (what about EU trade agreements, do they also apply? Can NI benefit from the best of both worlds? If so, does this means that it is OK to bring in products at a lower rate of duty into Belfast that it would cost to get these goods into Dublin? Can you then just ship them across from Belfast to Dublin without any tax adjustment....


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