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New online service for Ulster import declarations

[ August 7, 2020   //   ]

The Government has unveiled a Trader Support Service for Northern Ireland to complete digital processes and handle safety and security declarations for imports into the province.

The new service will be available to businesses bringing in goods from Great Britain or the rest of the world.

A procurement exercise for the service has now been launched. The government has committed £50m of funding for the establishment and first phase of the service, with the full contract to be worth up to £200m. Businesses in Northern Ireland can sign up for further information about the scheme on GOV.UK, before it becomes operational in September.

The service was announced on 7 August by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, as part of a £650m package of investment.

The service is outlined as part of the publication of new guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol for businesses moving goods into and from Northern Ireland.

Brandon Lewis, said: “This new Trader Support Service backed by funding of up to £200m reinforces this approach – it is a unique service that will ensure that businesses of all sizes can have import processes dealt with on their behalf, at no cost.”

However, Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Northern Ireland at Logistics UK (formerly FTA), warned that, with less than 150 days until the end of the Brexit transition period, there was no time to lose in testing and implementing the new system.

He said: “For some time, we have been urging the government to provide financial and administrative support to Northern Ireland businesses to help them adjust to the complex new trading procedures they will be faced with post-EU exit….The £200 million support package will be vital to the successful implementation of the NI Protocol and ultimately, keeping trade between NI and GB moving as efficiently as possible once the Brexit transition period concludes on 31 December 2020.”

He added: “Northern Irish businesses face significant challenges at the end of the transition period, not least the challenges of customs documentation and other formalities, which many would be encountering for the first time.  The support package announced by Mr Gove will provide a vital lifeline for NI businesses concerned about the new administrative tasks facing them, and counters our argument that the cost of implementing or enforcing new border arrangements should not fall onto business or logistics providers.

“However, with less than 150 days until the end of the transition period – and the scheme operator only due to be announced in September – that leaves very little space for the new systems to be trialled and implemented This will be made more complex by the challenges posed by the festive season – traditionally the logistics sector’s busiest working period. A solution for the transit of NI goods via Dublin Port to/from GB is critical, and an agreement for market access to the island of Ireland must be prioritised.

“We will continue working with the government to ensure the scheme is up and running as soon as possible. In the meantime, we advise all our members to continue with their Brexit preparations to ensure the protection of the GB/NI supply chain, which is critical to a smooth transition out of the EU.”

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