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The UK government has unveiled a £200m customs support service for firms trading in and out of Northern Ireland, to ease the administrative burden after the UK’s transition from the EU ends this year.

From 1 January 2021, under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, traders in the province must follow EU Customs Union rules on moving goods as well as new UK regulations.

The service, which will be free to use, “will effectively see the government acting as a customs agent on behalf of businesses”, according to the BBC.

Live from September

Northern Ireland-based firms can sign up for more information about TSS from today before the service goes live in September. HMRC said this registration process would “also help us identify businesses that currently move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

The TSS scheme is also open to firms bringing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK.

A further £155m has been ear-marked for digital infrastructure around moving goods in and out of Northern Ireland.

The funding was announced by cabinet minister Michael Gove and NI Secretary Brandon Lewis on a visit to Northern Ireland today (Friday 7 August).

Irish Sea border

As part of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a regulatory border is being created in the Irish Sea rather than on the island of Ireland, after transition ends in December 2020.

In its preamble to announcing the TSS, the Cabinet Office affirms that the UK government will ensure that:

  • Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain should take place as it does now – there will be no additional process, paperwork, or restrictions on Northern Ireland goods moving to Great Britain, delivering unfettered access

  • Changes for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be kept to an absolute minimum.

    The new Trader Support Service, available to all traders at no cost, will be established to provide wraparound support, alongside guidance on the processes for food and agricultural products designed to uphold the longstanding status of the island of Ireland as a single epidemiological unit

  • Trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and between Northern Ireland and EU Member States, will continue unaffected, with no change at the border, no new paperwork, and no tariffs or regulatory checks

  • For trade with the rest of the world, Northern Ireland will benefit from UK free trade agreement – ensuring the benefits of those agreements are felt right across the United Kingdom