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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has called on eligible businesses to apply for the UK Trader Scheme before the end of February.

Most businesses are using the Trader Support Scheme to complete customs declarations. While they may be familiar with the first part of the customs process using this system, it is vital that they now prepare for supplementary declarations. It is this declaration that will outline how the business will handle tariffs.

The UK/EU Trade and Co-Operation Agreement (TCA) only removes tariffs on goods that meet the rules of origin of the agreement. This means that businesses must plan ahead as to how to handle tariffs on these declarations.

There are three options for securing zero tariffs on goods moving from GB to NI:

  • Declaring goods not at risk by applying for the UK Trader Scheme
  • Meeting the rules of origin requirements of the UK/EU TCA
  • Claiming a waiver

Minister Dodds said: “This applies to all businesses, big or small, registered for VAT or not. I know that smaller businesses may find this particularly challenging.”

The Minister continued: “My advice is to prepare in advance by considering the information you will need and how you plan to handle tariffs. Training is available from Trader Support Service on supplementary declaration process. Invest NI and InterTradeIreland also continue to have a range of support on offer to businesses.

“It is vital that businesses plan how to handle tariffs on this declaration.”

Applicants to the UK Trader Scheme before the end of February will receive a provisional authorisation which will enable them to declare goods not at risk while their application is being considered. This provisional authorisation will last for up to four months. While businesses can still apply after the end of February, they will not be able to declare goods as not at risk until their application is approved. This could lead to delays for businesses.

Ministers Dodds said: “I would urge any business that is buying from GB or thinks they will at any time in the future to look at the eligibility for the UK Trader Scheme and apply if they meet the criteria. I would particularly urge non-essential retail and hospitality businesses who are closed due to Covid regulations to consider this issue.

“Applying before the end of February will mean that businesses are less likely to experience disruption in purchasing from GB as they will be granted a provisional authorisation while their applications is being considered. I would therefore urge any eligible business to apply before the end of February, even if you are unsure of when you will purchase from GB.”

The Minister also noted that consumers continue to be impacted by GB retailers charging more for shipping to NI or refusing serve to NI consumers.

She said: “I continue to urge UK Government to take some action to address the issues around availability of delivery to NI from GB retailers. It is clear that the grace period on customs has not resolved this issue.

“If this becomes our new normal, it is the poorest in our society who will suffer. That is why I believe UK Government needs to present concrete proposals as to how to build a functioning e-commerce market that benefits all consumers in the UK.”