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Northern Ireland Protocol: Will Article 16 be triggered before Christmas?

“I don’t think anyone’s calling Article 16 before Christmas, absolutely not”, the International Trade minister Anne Marie Trevelyan told The Telegraph.

In the last couple days, we have seen cross words between the Government and EU representatives. Lord Frost wanted to speed up the negotiation, aiming to conclude the exit from EU as soon as possible and start negotiation with other markets.

The NI Protocol and EU-UK negotiations

The European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic disagrees, telling the Politico, "Looking at how far we progressed over the last four weeks, the level of detail our U.K. partners want to discuss, I know that we will probably not be able to resolve everything before the end of the year".

Lord Frost and Sefcovic are currently at loggerheads on the circulation of medicine. This was discussed in the meeting held on Friday 26th November, the circulation between GB and NI and is an urgent topic to be resolved before the Christmas deadline. Sefcovic, doesn’t believe there will be enough time, telling The Telegraph, “The medicines agreement is needed this week as the EU will need several more weeks to implement the solution”.

What do the businesses think?

Business leaders have warned Lord Frost that triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol would be a “lose-lose” situation.

A group of trade representatives met Frost at a face-to-face meeting last month in Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. They told The Guardian that triggering article 16 would have a chilling effect on trade in and out of Northern Ireland. “It will not persuade a single person who is not supplying NI already to do so; that those who are already trading with NI may stop supplying NI because they might find themselves in legal jeopardy as boardrooms will want to comply with the law; and thirdly, EU customers who are buying from Northern Ireland may decide not to do so because they will consider it too much of a hassle in the legal uncertainty,” said one business leader at the meeting.

What does the future look like?

The government has a clear route of starting an open talk and negotiation with new markets, as soon possible. As Trevelyan has commented in her speech at Centre for Policy Studies, “India is, of course, one of our most significant export markets, and I look forward to launching our trade talks soon with them”.

Despite this, UK service exports highlighted that the EU is the UK's single biggest export market, therefore leaving the EU is not the end of the story, discussions will continue afterwards aiming at a positive future relationship between EU and UK.

What is article 16?

The Guardian has given a very useful explanation: Article 16 is an emergency brake in the Irish protocol, the agreement that left Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market and customs union to make Johnson’s Brexit model compatible with avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland

Are you a Trader based in Greater Manchester or the North of England trading with or via Northern Ireland?

Help us understand current trade flows so we can feedback into local and central government, which can aid future business support and policy, by completing this 60 seconds survey.

New Rules from 1st Jan 2022

Whatever the status of current discussions, traders must prepare for changes coming up in 2022 regarding NI such as:

  • Changes to NI Intrastat Reporting meaning businesses moving goods between NI and the EU will be required to provide intrastat declarations. Read more here

  • From 1st Jan 2022, all importers in the UK will now be required to do full customs declarations, including imports into Northern Ireland.

  • Equally, as of 1st Jan 2022, it is expected the Goods Vehicle Management System (GVMS), the UK Government IT platform for moving goods into or out of Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) will be required to be used by hauliers

Source: HMRC, The Guardian, and telegraph

How can we help? 

  • Chamber Customs Webinars: Join our free 3-part free webinar series as we review, analyse and outline the future of the EU-UK Trade Relationship will be. Book now here

  • Trade Update Webinar – Changes for Importers Trading with EU 1st Jan 2022 – Join our free webinar on the 16th December here

  • Customs Clearance & Transit Services: We are an HMRC Compliant customs broker helping UK traders with export and import customs entries and transit documentation for companies of all sizes, through any port or airport. To set up an account or for more information, email us at or complete our short online form. 

  • Training Courses: From how to complete a customs declaration to export/import customs procedures and documentation, to mention but a few, our full range of courses are designed to help your staff to keep up with current and latest regulations. View our list of upcoming courses here.  

  • Advice and Support 

For further advice on any of the above or support you require with exporting or importing, please email  

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