Given that EU law applies in Northern Ireland, can traders also benefit from the 40+ EU FTAs? Arne Mielken, customs expert on customs explains
The EU has adopted rules regarding
the preferential proofs of origin to be used for goods imported into Northern Ireland,
the verification of the preferential origin of such goods and
the conditions for granting and suspending preferential tariff measures.
It's in the Withdrawal Agreement
Article 4 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland annexed to the Withdrawal Agreement (‘the Protocol’) reiterates that Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom,
NI is NOT EU, but....
Therefore, for the purpose of applying preferential trade arrangements, third countries or groups of third countries with which the Union has such preferential trade arrangements cannot consider Northern Ireland to be part of the Union.
....UCC applies to NI and so do preferential tariff measures
The EU' Union Customs Code (UCC) applies to Northern Ireland. So do its preferential tariff measures of the UCC which relate to the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that the EU has agreed
countries or territories outside the EU's customs territory or
groups of such countries or territories.
So, given that the preferential rules of the UCC apply, this means it must be possible for NI goods to be considered "originating" in the EU. What are the rules for that?
How will preferential rules of origin work in relation to NI?
When referring to the EU in the context of customs legislation, this usually is considered to include Northern Ireland (even though it must be clear that the territory of Northern Ireland shall not be considered part of the EU). The rules on the preferential origin of the UCC apply in Northern Ireland thus apply, once the necessary changes have been made.
Obligations related to proofs of origin under preferential trade arrangements adopted unilaterally by the Union
Proofs of origin for products to be imported into Northern Ireland must be issued or made out in third countries or groups of third countries benefiting from the preferential tariff measures as if imported into the Union.
Proofs of origin
Proofs of origin issued that benefit from EU preferential tariff measures must indicate ‘the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland’ for products to be imported into Northern Ireland "under preference"
Verification under preferential trade arrangements adopted unilaterally by the Union
The origin of products imported into Northern Ireland and benefiting their EU FTA's shall be verified in the third countries (or groups of third countries) concerned, on request from the competent customs authorities in Northern Ireland, under the same conditions as the EU' products.
The third countries need to jump into actions to grant preferences under preferential trade arrangements
A preferential tariff measure is not be granted in Northern Ireland unless the third countries (or groups of third countries) benefiting from the preferential tariff measures referred t has undertaken measures to ensure compliance, and inform the Commission accordingly, when exporting into Northern Ireland, with:
the rules of preferential origin for the products;
the rules on issuing or making out the proofs of origin;
the rules on verifying the preferential origin of products;
the other conditions laid down in the relevant preferential trade arrangements.
The EU Commission shall publish on its website the date on which the third countries or group of third countries are understood to have taken measures to ensure compliance.
Finally, ... Cumulation with third country "origin" does NOT apply to NI. In particular, for the purposes of applying the provisions on cumulation, goods originating or processing carried out in Northern Ireland should not be counted as goods originating or processing carried out in the Union.