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BCC Call for Crystal Clear Guidance on GB-NI Trade

Following an agreement between the EU and UK on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Chambers of Commerce are highlighting the need for clear guidance on the regulations

Published on December 10, 2020

Port of Larne Port of Larne, Northern Ireland. Photo (cropped): Andrew Hill

Yesterday, December 9, an agreement was struck between the UK and the European Union on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Responding to the breakthrough, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have called for the agreement to be quickly translated into clear guidance in order to ensure businesses know the rules.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall responded to the announcement by saying "More detail on how to keep trade flowing smoothly in both directions between GB and NI and on both sides of the Irish Sea after the 1st of January, whatever the outcome of negotiations, is a belated but necessary step forward in providing clarity for our business communities. The devil however will be in the detail on how this operates for firms on the ground."

He added that "This agreement must swiftly be converted into crystal-clear guidance and operating protocols so that businesses can act on it - as they have incredibly little time to prepare for the significant changes that lie ahead."

Addressing the issues from the perspective of businesses in Northern Ireland, Ann McGregor, CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that "The announcement today that the EU and UK have agreed a trusted trader scheme that would mean exemptions from tariffs for up to 98pc of goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from January 1, as well as a grace period for export health certificates and no exit summary declarations, appears positive at first glance."

However, McGregor adds that "the devil is in the detail and NI Chamber is very concerned about business capacity to analyse, absorb and implement actions required as details as emerge. We still have concerns about flow v compliance, the lack of a HMRC helpline to address queries as they emerge, the possible loss of access to affordable food for the Northern Ireland consumer and the fact that services have not been mentioned."

In other news, the UK government has announced a £400m post-transition period package for Northern Ireland, described as a "New Deal for Northern Ireland". Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, said that "Fostering economic growth and social cohesion is key to building a stable and prosperous future for Northern Ireland and this additional £400 million will support Northern Ireland after the end of the Transition period enabling NI businesses and its people to innovate and invest."

More details on the £400m package can be found at www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-provides-400m-package-for-northern-ireland-in-post-transition-deal. More detail on the GB-NI protocol, go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/moving-goods-under-the-northern-ireland-protocol/moving-goods-under-the-northern-ireland-protocol-section-two-moving-goods-from-great-britain-to-northern-ireland.

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