Lawyers Call for Transition Clarity To Address Unwelcome New Year Present
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have pointed out that uncertainty over some post-Brexit transition rules still need to be addressed, despite the securing of a trade deal at the end of 2020.
The advice comes as orders and deliveries for Northern Ireland have been cancelled or delayed, in January, despite the fact that most parcels between Britain and Northern Ireland don’t need any customs declarations until April this year, thanks to the HM Customs grace period.
While some changes have already come into effect, some businesses (including John Lewis) have taken no chances and suspended deliveries, leading the economy minister to write to the cabinet office secretary to call for urgent action to address the issues.
Businesses in Northern Ireland receiving goods valued at £135 or more through an express carrier or Royal Mail will still need to submit a customs declaration, but have three months to do so, via the government’s Trader Support Service.
The delivery issues come despite government efforts to ensure Northern Ireland was not impacted following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020. Yet despite Northern Ireland’s ‘unique circumstances’, fears this would be insufficient are being realised.
Some firms are ceasing deliveries in the short term, while they assess what the reality will look like and how they work to the new rules while still maintaining a viable business. Even the grace period has not proved enough to stop some erring on the side of caution, with delayed and cancelled deliveries impacting on consumers and business alike.
Similar issues for British exporters fuelled reports that some UK firms who export to the EU had been advised to set up subsidiaries in Europe to avoid current trade disruption, despite not being government policy. It is also feared that some of the same issues are likely to be encountered by EU exporters to the UK in the months ahead.
Expert Opinion“There were always going to be teething troubles as the UK settles into a new normal post-Brexit, even with a trade deal in place and special arrangements made for Northern Ireland.
“The government has taken a lot of positive steps to help prepare Northern Ireland for Brexit but the ongoing lack of clarity over some issues is already making itself felt.
“It should be possible to make the system work during the transition period up to April but it remains unclear what happens after this time and business needs confidence in both the transition arrangements and what will follow them.
“The government needs to take the initiative and easing firms into a new system with a grace period would be better received if firms had an understanding of what that new system will look like, as we all feel our way into the new business realities post-Brexit.” Sarah Cardew - Partner
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