Sys­tem agreed to re­duce Brexit pa­per­work for Ir­ish ex­ports

Ar­range­ment af­fects two-thirds of ex­porters who use Bri­tain as land bridge

The Irish Times - - Business News - NAOMI O’LEARY in Brus­sels

An Ir­ish pro­posal to lessen pa­per­work for traders who ex­port goods from the is­land over the “land bridge” of Bri­tain and make pas­sage through con­ti­nen­tal ports smoother when checks come into place on Bri­tish goods from Jan­uary has won pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment in Brus­sels.

The ar­range­ments af­fect the two-thirds of Ir­ish ex­porters that use the so-called land bridge, trans­port­ing their goods through Bri­tain be­fore they are moved on to other mar­kets, and will ap­ply to goods from both North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic.

The Euro­pean Union has long agreed that Ir­ish goods ar­riv­ing into the Con­ti­nent must be ex­empt from any checks that Bri­tish goods are sub­ject to, be­cause as part of the sin­gle mar­ket Ire­land should be treated equally to any other EU mem­ber when it comes to trade.

But im­ple­ment­ing this is tricky, and re­quires a sys­tem to dis­tin­guish Ir­ish goods from Bri­tish goods when they are un­loaded from fer­ries at con­ti­nen­tal ports such as Rot­ter­dam, Zee­brugge or Cher­bourg.

In re­cent months the Gov­ern­ment ex­pressed con­cerns about the smooth op­er­a­tion of com­puter sys­tems that are needed to de­tect the ori­gin of goods and en­sure that Ir­ish goods go through the no-check “green lanes”, rather than the red lanes that in­volve in­spec­tions of Bri­tish goods.

A meet­ing be­tween the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Ire­land, Bel­gium, France, Ger­many and the Nether­lands last week reached an agree­ment to avoid traders hav­ing to en­ter in­for­ma­tion twice, ac­cord­ing to those close to the talks.

Un­der the ar­range­ment, data would be taken au­to­mat­i­cally from dec­la­ra­tions that traders al­ready have to make to Ir­ish au­thor­i­ties when mov­ing food or an­i­mal prod­ucts that have im­pli­ca­tions for hu­man health.

Ease of trade

“It’s about keep­ing goods flow­ing, and from an Ir­ish point of view it’s about pro­tect­ing our ease of trade within the sin­gle mar­ket,” a source close to the talks said.

The change re­quires an amend­ment to EU reg­u­la­tion 2019/2124, and is cur­rently mov­ing through the com­mis­sion and will need to be ap­proved by na­tional lead­ers and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. “On the spe­cific case about IT sys­tems and what hap­pens when prod­ucts from Ire­land en­ter into the sin­gle mar­ket again after com­ing across the land bridge of Great Bri­tain, this is an is­sue that has been dis­cussed be­tween Ire­land and the com­mis­sion and a num­ber of rel­e­vant mem­ber states,” a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokesman said.

“This tech­ni­cal work is on­go­ing at the mo­ment be­tween all of the rel­e­vant mem­ber states.”

How­ever, sources close to the talks stressed that this tech­ni­cal work was en­tirely sep­a­rate to ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bri­tain re­gard­ing its fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU, and does not solve the land-bridge is­sue be­cause it re­lates only to what hap­pens to Ir­ish goods once they ar­rive in con­ti­nen­tal ports.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK

The Euro­pean Union has long agreed that Ir­ish goods ar­riv­ing into the Con­ti­nent, at ports such as Calais, pic­tured, must be ex­empt from any checks that Bri­tish goods are sub­ject to.

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