Customs procedures for goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

Customs processes for businesses who move goods from Ireland to Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.


The government is committed to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and to do everything in its power to make sure there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Whilst the government’s main objective is to secure a deal with the EU, we continue to make responsible preparations for a no deal outcome. As part of these preparations we have been running events with key stakeholders, to help them understand what systems will be in place at the border if there is no deal. We will continue to work with Northern Ireland businesses and traders over the coming weeks, and have published this guidance, as part of our ongoing engagement plans.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland will face different procedures compared to other UK-EU trade.

This approach will apply until longer-term arrangements are made. The government will give advance notice before introducing any new requirements or changing existing ones.

Northern Ireland customs procedures

Goods crossing the land, air and sea borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland are not currently subject to Customs Duty or customs declarations.

The new procedures will make sure this will not change for most goods.

This means most traders moving goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland will not need to get a customs agent or a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

Goods arriving from Ireland will be subject to import VAT. Further information is available in VAT on goods you move from Ireland to Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

This guidance only covers the UK government’s temporary approach for moving goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland. You will also need to consider any advice issued by the Irish government on their requirements for goods moving into or out of Ireland.

There will be no new requirements or checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

HMRC will support businesses who move goods across the border legitimately, including businesses that continue to use the routes they use today.

If you choose to move goods from Ireland to Great Britain through Northern Ireland for commercial reasons, not connected with an avoidance purpose, tariffs will not be due and tariff rate quotas will not apply.

If you divert goods through Ireland and Northern Ireland with the main purpose of avoiding Customs Duty, HMRC will have the power to require you to pay the UK’s tariff, whether the goods are from Ireland or outside Ireland.

HMRC will continue to enforce compliance on an intelligence-led basis to make sure trade is consistent with the requirements set out in legislation.

HMRC is committed to promoting compliance and tackling avoidance and evasion and would take steps to make sure this temporary arrangement is not abused

Exceptions to the Northern Ireland procedures

The only exceptions for businesses will be:

  • goods liable to Excise Duty (alcohol, tobacco and certain oils)
  • a small number of controlled and licensed goods

If you move controlled and licensed goods you will need to:

  • make declarations if you trade in dangerous chemicals, ozone depleting substances or F-gases
  • use Belfast International Airport as the designated point of entry into Northern Ireland for endangered species and rough diamonds
  • have a licence to export dual-use or goods which could be used for torture or capital punishment
  • make declarations if you import animals and animal products from outside the EU that have not been checked in the EU

These are the only new processes which we will introduce.

DEFRA have also published guidance if you import regulated plant material from third countries to Northern Ireland through the EU, plants or plant products from the EU currently managed under the EU plant passport scheme. These goods will still be exempt from Customs Duty, but you must tell HMRC if you import or export goods that need a declaration between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

HMRC will provide further detail on how you can meet these requirements soon.

Processes will also be put in place for those businesses wishing to declare goods into transit or special procedures. Use of these procedures is voluntary.

How to tell HMRC

To tell HMRC you’re moving these categories of goods, you should complete a declaration.

If you move goods between Northern Ireland and another country

The new procedures will not apply to goods moving between Northern Ireland and any other EU member state or third country.

You should follow the guidance in trading with the EU if the UK leaves without a deal for any goods you import from or export to any EU countries other than Ireland.

Published 29 March 2019