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Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to scrutinise “unfettered access”

5 March 2020

The Committee examines the potential effect of new customs arrangements on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  They will look at the nature of the customs checks and processes that businesses could face and the potential effect of those new customs arrangements on the volume and profitability of trade.

Unfettered Access

The UK Government has repeatedly promised that NI businesses will continue to have “unfettered access” to the UK internal market after 31 December 2020. The inquiry will examine the extent to which such access will be frictionless and the preparedness of customs authorities to facilitate the new arrangements. The Committee is particularly interested in hearing from people and businesses who move goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Terms of reference

The Committee seeks written evidence that addresses the questions below:

  • Whether the revised Northern Ireland Protocol will allow goods produced in Northern Ireland unfettered access to the rest of the UK internal market?
  • What customs checks, processes, declarations and infrastructure improvements will need to be implemented under the revised Protocol by:
    (a) businesses and
    (b) customs authorities in
    (i) Northern Ireland and
    (ii) Britain in order to export goods from (A) Northern Ireland to Britain and (B) Britain to Northern Ireland?
  • Whether the UK has sufficient:
    (a) customs agents
    (b) customs officials and
    (c) veterinarians to facilitate the new customs arrangements?
  • What effect the new customs arrangements will have on the:
    (a) volume and
    (b) profitability of
    (i) West-East and
    (ii) East-West trade between Northern Ireland and Britain?
  • What potential economic effects the revised Protocol will have on Northern Ireland?
  • Other issues and challenges arising from the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol 

Chair's comments

Simon Hoare, Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said

“There is an urgent need for clarity on customs arrangements for east-west trade under the Northern Ireland Protocol. Despite Government promises of unfettered access, it now seems likely that additional paperwork will be required to move goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, businesses remain in the dark about how they can get their goods to market after the transition period.

This inquiry will examine how new customs arrangements will affect businesses and consider how such impacts might be mitigated. The Committee will also scrutinise whether the UK Government and customs authorities have appropriate resources to effectively implement the new system. Our objective is to inform the choices that the UK Government makes on new customs arrangements to help make the new system work for people in Northern Ireland.”

Further information

Image: Tyler Casey via Unsplash