Windsor Framework – The grass isn’t always greener in the Green Lane
Whilst the progress and initiatives of the Windsor Protocol are broadly welcomed, the customs issues of moving goods by traders accessing a ‘frictionless’ Green Lane from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is not going to be the reality for small to medium sized traders – unless HMRC and the government lessen the burden on these businesses. To use the Green Lane, traders will have to register with HMRC as a ‘Trusted Trader’ and meet and maintain certain fiscal and customs obligations to a high and sometimes onerous standard.
HMRC currently oversee the Trusted Trader scheme, both in its current format for goods moving into the Province that are classified ‘at risk’ or ‘not at risk’ of moving into the EU, and the internationally recognised Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme which covers traders moving goods internationally and allowing access to certain customs ‘benefits’. Both schemes require traders to meet and maintain – through sporadic renewal processes – a very high-bar of customs compliance, recordkeeping, inventory control, customs accuracy, and submission of documents and physical security of premises to enable them to maintain registration and their place in these schemes.
Whilst bigger companies have the resources to commit to the application process and the maintenance of their place in these schemes, many smaller businesses simply do not have the manpower or dedicated customs knowledge to fulfil the requirements. Unless the government, in conjunction with HMRC allow a more nuanced approach to the NI specific Trusted Trader scheme and/or increase the level of risk-based checks in lieu of the scheme within the Green Lane, many companies will not be able to meet the stringent requirements. Hence, they will not benefit from the Green Lane as intended.
Likewise, companies that move bulk consignments such as high-volume loose items, may find themselves excluded if they cannot differentiate what part of their product inventory will remain in NI and which will move onwards within the EU. Whilst on the face of it an efficient inventory system would solve this issue, many traders move items in bulk and then react to various demands in their supply chain across different markets. In these instances, placing the goods in the Red Lane and seeking a reclaim of any customs duty (due to Rules of Origin issues) and perhaps a corrected customs entry would be a heavy administrative burden and not a smooth solution.
We still await the full and final details and ratification, but traders need to be aware that moving goods from GB to NI may not be as frictionless as we are led to believe.
Would you like to know more?
If you would like to discuss any of the above, please contact your usual Blick Rothenberg contact, or Simon Sutcliffe using the details on this page or the form below.