EU/UK trade and customs relationship in the new N. Ireland protocol

Old wine in new barrels?

By Lourdes Catrain and Aline Doussin

The EU-UK agreement reached on 17 October 2019 ("Agreement") revises the Irish backstop with a new protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland ("NI protocol").

The NI protocol provides that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK customs territory and as such included in any free trade agreements that the UK will conclude with third countries, provided that those agreements do not prejudice the application of this NI protocol. Under the NI protocol, Northern Ireland would fully align some of its regulations with those of the EU Single Market and Customs Union to avoid regulatory and customs checks at the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK would remain part of the EU Customs Union and Single Market until the end of the transition period (i.e. until at least 31 December 2020). As a result, the conditions for trade between the UK and the EU Member States will remain unchanged from 1 November 2019 to 31 December 2020, the end of the transition period, unless further extended.

Goods moving from Great Britain into Northern Ireland would not be subject to customs duties unless there is a risk that the goods would be destined to be used in the EU.

Goods imported into Northern Ireland from outside of the EU would be subject to: (1) the UK tariffs if destined to Northern Ireland; and (2) the EU tariffs if there is a risk that they could be subsequently transferred to the EU either in and of themselves or as part of further processed goods ("EU Destined Goods"). This application of potentially different duty rates in the EU and UK customs territories would require controls on end-use and end-destination of the imported products, which will add a new layer of customs compliance obligations for operators in Northern Ireland.

Goods imported into Northern Ireland would be presumed to be EU Destined Goods unless they meet the two following cumulative conditions:

  • They are not subject to commercial processing in Northern Ireland, such as alteration or transformation of the goods other than for the purpose of preservation, marking or any other documentation activity to ensure regulatory compliance; and
  • They fulfil certain criteria to be defined jointly by the Joint Committee (comprised of EU and UK officials) prior to the end of the transition period.

The UK would retain the right to waive or repay duties paid on EU Destined Goods brought into Northern Ireland from non-EU Member States (including the UK) so long as the amounts waived/repaid remain below certain thresholds. The NI protocol provides that customs duties charged for EU Destined Goods entering in Northern Ireland would be retained by the UK and not remitted to the EU budget.

The EU and UK would also retain the possibility to introduce safeguard measures where the aforementioned scheme results in: (1) persistent and serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties; and/or (2) trade diversion. The introduction of such safeguard measures by one of the Parties could, in turn, be met by the imposition of rebalancing measures by the other Party with a view to remedy any imbalance generated by the safeguards.

The EU and the UK would need to expeditiously negotiate their future trade relationship. It is only if the EU and the UK fail to reach a deal on such future relationship by the end of the transition period that the NI protocol would become automatically applicable.

Brexit and the transition period – implications for the EUMR's one-stop-shop

The UK's departure from the EU on 31 January has initiated an 11 month transition period, during which the application of EU competition law in the UK will remain largely unchanged.  Thus the EU rules governing mergers will continue to apply during this transition period.

Brexit and Data Protection: Boom for data centre operators in Continental Europe?

Data centre operators in Europe could benefit from Brexit and have already been preparing for years for precisely this scenario, including by expanding such data centre capacities in Continental Europe.

The future of UK data protection

As with anything Brexit-related, the UK government is facing a dilemma in relation to data protection law. Shall we follow the direction of travel of the past 25 years and opt for the continuity and certainty provided by the GDPR or shall we use the departure from the EU to make radical changes to the regulation of data uses and privacy?

Beyond Brexit: Regulatory equivalence in financial services

Irrespective of whether the UK leaves the EU with a withdrawal agreement, interest grows in the future of regulatory policy, the inter-connectivity of international financial services, and how firms from other countries will be welcomed by the main international jurisdictions.

DHSC Update on Medicines and Medical Devices Contingency Planning

Following the recent agreement to delay Brexit until 31 January 2020, the UK Department of Health and Social Care ("DHSC") has written to suppliers of UK medicines and medical devices to confirm the continued contingency planning arrangements for a "no deal" Brexit.

EU/UK trade and customs relationship in the new N. Ireland protocol

Old wine in new barrels?

The EU-UK agreement reached on 17 October 2019 ("Agreement") revises the Irish backstop with a new protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland ("NI protocol").

New UK Medicines and Medical Devices Bill Announced

UK government's proposed plan for new legislation, includes a new "Medicines and Medical Devices Bill".

Brexit: challenges and opportunities for FinTechs

With Parliament prorogued and the Government suggesting it may ignore legislation obliging it to request a further Brexit extension from Brussels, it remains a possibility that the UK may leave the EU on 31 October 2019 without a deal. In light of this it is important that businesses continue their preparations for Brexit in order to ensure they are able to continue to offer their services with minimal disruption.

Brexit - a guide to the latest developments

As the UK's constitution continues to be tested, the Brexit fundamentals remain unchanged.

What does a Johnson Premiership mean for Brexit?

By Andrew Eaton

Mr Johnson takes charge of Brexit at a fractious time for his party and the country, with the Conservative Party's working majority in the House of Commons (with the support from the Democratic Unionist Party) now just two and a number of pre-emptive ministerial resignations before he took office setting a defiant tone among rebellious MPs within the party itself.

Europe's share trading spat with Switzerland is a warning shot

Published in The Daily Telegraph on 9 July 2019

The EU’s dispute with Switzerland over the terms of access to their respective share trading markets, which brought the trading of Swiss stocks on European stock exchanges to a halt last week, is a stark reminder of what might await the UK in October.

Brexit recap: Where we are and how to do business in uncertainty

The UK Conservative Party leadership race is in full swing, with candidates making a number of promises and pledges relating to Brexit.  In light of this, it is instructive to recap the basic legal position in which the UK finds itself and how we got here.