Northern Ireland 'should exploit position as a trade hub for Europe', leading think tank says

Fri 22 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Northern Ireland’s unique position under the NI Protocol could be used to promote it as a distribution hub for businesses which sell into the EU and UK, a think tank has suggested.

The Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) pointed out that businesses located in Northern Ireland can send goods to GB and the EU without tariffs and with less administrative burden.

Some companies such as JD Sports are building warehouses in the EU to bypass tariffs for goods they sell in the 27-member trade bloc.

Unique position

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s single market and continues to apply EU customs rules on goods arriving at its ports.

If these goods enter NI by direct transport under the EU’s customs code there is free circulation within the EU and unfettered access to GB, as the IIEA explains.

“This makes NI a viable alternative distribution model to sell into both GB and the EU, because NI is in the UK Customs Union and also has free circulation in the EU,” it says.

ECJ role

As NI protocol negotiations continue, the Times says that prime minister Boris Johnson is privately prepared to accept a limited role for the European Court of Justice in a bid to unlock a deal with Brussels.

In a trip to NI, Johnson told the media that a solution had to be found “pretty fast”.

“We can’t go on forever with this question because it is affecting real people and real lives and real businesses right now because of the way in which the protocol is being interpreted,” he said, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The PM’s comments, his first since UK and EU officials last week re-opened talks on the Protocol, are being seen as a move to lower the temperature of a dispute that threatens to erupt into a full-blown trade war.

Frost: no show-and-tell

The Independent reports that Brexit minister Lord Frost has refused to publish details of his plans for changes to the NI Protocol with opposition, despite having already shared them with the EU. 

Frost said the legal text was not a “new stage or evolution in our position” and simply reflected the UK’s position set out earlier in the summer.