Northern Ireland Protocol FAQs

What is the difference between UK GPDR / DPA 2018 and EU GDPR?

The Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and sets out the framework for data protection law in the UK.

The DPA 2018 came into force on 25 May 2018 – the same day as the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) – and superseded the previous UK Data Protection Act 1998. Following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) in 2020, the processing of manual unstructured data and processing for national security purposes now fall under the scope of the UK GDPR regime.

There are some important differences between UK and EU data protections laws, such as the age of consent to data processing; the definition of personal data; the processing of criminal data (whether official authority is required to do so); automated decision making / processing; data subject rights (if they can be waived); privacy vs freedom of expression; representatives (whether EU or UK rep.); and administrative fines.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The Northern Ireland Protocol was borne out of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to cover the special situation in the island of Ireland. It avoids the need to have a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and does not compromise the free-flow of goods between both territories, and unfettered access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Protocol means that, as of 1 January 2021, UK authorities apply EU customs rules to goods entering Northern Ireland. This is due to most goods being considered to be ‘at risk’ of entering the EU single market on consignments from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. However, while Northern Ireland is aligned to the EU for administrative purposes, is remains part of the UK customs area. Therefore, Northern Ireland would be included in any future agreements the UK Government has with third (non-EU) countries. The Protocol also honours the Good Friday Agreement (a.k.a. Belfast Agreement) signed on 10 April 1998.

What is the Trader Support Service (TSS); do I need to register if we export goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

If you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Trader Support Service (which came into effect on 1 January 2021) will guide you through the changes based on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The TSS is a free-to-use, temporary (i.e. 2021-2023) UK Government-backed service to guide exporters how to move goods move between GB and NI.  TSS can complete standard declarations on your behalf and provide general and technical advice regarding the transit of goods across the regulatory (Irish Sea) border.

It does not replace services offered by an existing intermediaries (i.e. customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators), nor does it provide advice on trading with the EU and other third (non-UK) countries.

TSS agents have varying degrees of knowledge. Tier 3 (highest ranking) agents have more than seven years’ experience and can answer complex customs queries.

If you have not yet registered with the Trader Support Service, you can 'Register Your Company' here. This will provide you with a trader reference number  You can speak with a TSS contact centre agent on 0800 060 8888 (07:30 - 22:30, Monday to Sunday).  

What is the declaration process when moving goods from Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

When moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland (NI), an Entry Summary (Safety & Security) Declaration (ESD) (also called a ENS declaration) is required (unless you are eligible to claim a waiver on the goods until 30 December 2021) prior to arrival of the consignment.

The carrier (“the operator”) has the legal responsibility (unless otherwise assigned to the trader) to ensure that the UK customs authority is provided with the ESD prior to the arrival if the goods. Go to Trader Support Service (TSS) for assistance, or navigate to the relevant Trader Support Service FAQ in the PPMA members’ information library.

You can hire a person or business established in the UK (i.e. a customs agent) to deal with customs for you; however, they cannot act on your behalf without written instructions from you. The instructions must show whether they’re acting for you directly or indirectly. HMRC will only ask for evidence of the authorisation if they need it.

To make a customs entry declaration in NI from GB (or from outside the EU to NI), the importer will need to use the Import Control System (ICS) to inform customs (in NI) that the goods are arriving ‘before they leave the country of departure’ (check re. any controlled goods, i.e. chemicals). The ICS manages the lodging, handling and processing entry summary declarations; handling UK airport diversions and issuing a Movement Reference Number (for hauliers).

You will need to register with the Import Control System prior to moving a consignment from GB to NI. To do so, you will need a valid EORI number, starting with XI prefix, and the postcode for the address given in your EORI registration. If you’ve already registered, you can sign in via the Government Gateway portal.

Importers of goods into NI from GB will not be liable for import duty if a preferential rate of duty (rules of origin) applies under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU and not ‘at risk’ of moving from the UK customs area (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) into the EU (which includes the Republic of Ireland). Check here to see if you’re goods are likely to be at risk. Where import duty applies (for goods at risk), check the EU tariff.

Should you require any further information or assistance, you can contact the Trader Support Service or the Import Control System (ICS) Helpdesk on 0300 322 7095 (8am-5pm, Monday to Friday, including bank holidays) or email: [email protected]

You can watch a shortly TSS video (7:28 mins) here on how to create and submit a consignment first ENS declaration (via TSS).

NB: The commercial value of the good(s) used for declaration purposes will only be visible to the importer and the party entering the data for this field, should this be a different party to the importer.    

How to move goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland via the Republic of Ireland?

From 1 January 2021, hauliers moving goods from GB to NI via the RoI can do so two ways:

  1. Use the Transit process to move goods through the Republic of Ireland.  Check if you can use transit to move goods to the EU and common transit countries here. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are members of the Common Transit Convention, used to ease the movement of goods between or through any common transit countries.
  2. Export the goods to the Republic of Ireland and enter the goods into free circulation (i.e. making a customs declaration) on the island of Ireland (NI and RoI).

If you move goods from the Republic of Ireland to Great Britain and the goods go through Northern Ireland, you do not have to pay Customs Duty.

However, if you move goods through the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for the purpose of avoiding Customs Duty, the goods will be subject to the UK tariff, whether the goods are from the Republic of Ireland or outside the Republic of Ireland. Preferential rates of duty (based on rules of origin) may apply.

Option 1 is supported by the Trader Support Service (TSS).  More information on the TSS is available in these FAQs.

What is Input and Output Tax?

When a UK VAT-registered business moves its own goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland it will have to account for output tax (calculated and charged on the sale of goods and services). However, if the movement of good is from NI to GB, there is not the same requirement to account for output tax unless an actual supply (i.e. transfer of ownership) takes place.

If the business intends to use the goods solely to make taxable supplies, then it can claim the VAT as input tax subject to the normal recovery rule, including partial exemption.

  • Input tax (VAT) is calculated on the value of the goods (e.g., £100,000 @ VAT rate 20% = £20,000)
  • Output tax (VAT) is calculated on the VAT Return. Output VAT should be deducted from input VAT

It’s important to keep a record of your taxable inputs so they can be accurately accounted for on your VAT Return. Where a business operates from more than one location, it is important that procedures are in place to ensure that all relevant accounting information needed for completing the return is reported to the person that prepares it in time for inclusion on the return.

There are two records that are specifically required for VAT:

  • the VAT account, which is invariably based on a routine business record of VAT a company owes or can claim
  • VAT invoice for supplies to other VAT-registered businesses. A ‘VAT invoice’ is essentially an invoice which contains some information required by the VAT rules, most commercial invoices will already hold the right information

NB: The margin scheme will no longer apply to supplies of second-hand goods in NI where those goods have been brought into NI from GB.

What is a movement of good(s) under customs / common transit?

Common Transit is one of four special customs procedures (the others being: storage, specific use (temp. admission and end-use) and inward and outward processing) used to move goods:

  • between two points of a customs territory, via another customs territory; or
  • between two or more different customs territories (across international borders).

Using the Common Transit (a.k.a. Customs Transit) procedure allows for the temporary suspension of duties, taxes and commercial policy measures that are applicable at import. It allows customs clearance formalities (i.e. making an import declaration, for example in the UK) to take place at the point destination rather than at the point of entry into the customs territory.

If you’re moving your goods to member country in the common transit convention (which includes the UK) or EU common transit countries (comprising: 27 EU member states, the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia), you will need to check if you need to complete an export declaration.

You’ll need to submit a UK export declaration before completing your transit declaration if your goods are:

  • going to an office of destination in a common or TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers, International Road Transport) country outside the EU.
  • being exported outside the EU once your transit movement has ended.

After you have submitted your export declaration you will need to complete a transit declaration.

If your goods need an import declaration in Northern Ireland, they may still leave Great Britain without an import declaration having been pre-lodged if they have ‘Union goods’ status. Union goods comprise: a) Goods wholly obtained in the EU and not incorporating goods imported from outside the EU. (b) Goods imported into the EU and released into free circulation in the EU, and (c) Goods obtained or produced in the EU from goods in (a) and (b).

All goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland using a GVMS (Goods Vehicle Movement Service) location need a GMR (Goods Movement Reference).

There are essentially two main categories of common transit procedure, T1 and T2:

  • T1 (external transit procedure) covers the movement of non-Union goods, suspending the measures normally applicable to them on import.
  • T2 (internal transit procedure) covers the movement of Union goods, suspending the measures normally applicable to them on import to a common transit country.
  • There is also a T2F (internal common transit procedure) code, which applies to goods when they’re travelling to, from or between the ‘special fiscal territories’ of the EU, except for direct movements between the UK and the Channel Islands, where a customs freight simplified procedure (CFSP) applies and a simplified frontier declaration is submitted by the trader to allow the release of the goods.

NB: You must register for Intrastat if, in any calendar year (from 1 January to 31 December), your business either receives more than £1.5 million worth of goods from the EU, or moves more than £250,000 worth of goods to the EU from Northern Ireland. You do not need to use Intrastat for goods you move from Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) to the EU. You must make an Intrastat declaration every month (where the threshold is exceeded).