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Ulster imports could face EU tariffs

[ December 9, 2019   //   ]

Around three quarters of Northern Ireland’s imports of goods from other locations, including Great Britain, would be subject to EU tariffs on arrival – which flies in the face of a recent government assertion that the province would remain within the UK customs territory, says director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, Professor Alan Winters.

He says that under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement’s Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland’s imports from the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, would face no tariffs. However, for any imports from elsewhere, the Protocol requires that any goods at risk of moving to the EU should be subject to EU rather than UK tariffs.

Future trade arrangements between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK has become a controversial subject during the election campaign after the Labour party revealed a leaked document suggesting that export declarations would be needed to move goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, a claim denied by the Conservative party.

Analysis by UKTPO, based at the University of Sussex, finds that about 82% of Northern Ireland’s imports from non-EU countries and approximately 64% of imports from Great Britain would face EU tariffs.

While goods that are proved to have been sold to final buyers in Northern Ireland would be eligible for a rebate of the EU tariff this would probably be difficult for the private sector to claim, adds Professor Winters.

It could also lead, in time, to exporters from Great Britain losing market share to Northern Ireland and EU suppliers.

A Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU would not completely avoid the problem. While goods produced in Great Britain exported to Northern Ireland and transiting on to the Republic of Ireland would face no tariffs, they would still need to satisfy rules of origin to prove that they had been produced in Great Britain.

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