Exporters face new British customs controls

Importers must notify authorities in UK of shipments from January 31st with many food products requiring additional health certification

Irish exporters face tighter post-Brexit controls on exports to Britain. From January 31st, British customs will seek notification of shipments along with health certificates for meat and other foods from Irish exporters.

Micheál Martin, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, on Friday urged exporters to prepare for the new customs controls.

Customers or agents in Britain importing goods from the Republic will have to notify UK authorities of those shipments up to 24 hours before their arrival and have been told they should register with the country’s Customs Declaration System.

Meat, live animal exports, infant formula and some other foods will also need export health certificates confirming they comply with British standards, issued by Irish Department of Agriculture veterinary inspectors at their point of origin.


Food made from pasteurised milk, including cheese and other dairy products, or processed meat, will not need health certificates but UK customs must still be notified of these.

The new rules will not hit trade between Northern Ireland and either the Republic or Britain. The North has free access to the Republic, EU Single Market and Britain under the Windsor Framework, which replaced an earlier protocol late last year.

That also means that goods shipped from the Republic to the North for processing, and subsequently sold on to Britain, will not be subject to the new customs rules.

The Government is advising exporters to ensure that British customers are prepared for notification and registration.

Businesses exporting meat and other products subject to health certification are being advised to put procedures in place with local department supervisory teams.

Health certificates are needed for products that British authorities regard as medium risk, such as meat and some plant products, or high risk, which includes live animals, goods subject to disease safeguards, and some food and feed of “non-animal origin”.

Officials in London said on Thursday there would be no further delays to the introduction of the border checks, which have been postponed five times since the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force in January 2021. Britain will not begin physical checks on January 31st but the UK government has said they will follow in April.

A third of Irish exports go to the UK despite the jurisdiction’s exit from the EU. Beef sales there reached €1.3 billion last year, while dairy products were worth €1.1 billion.

Britain’s Labour Party this week warned Rishi Sunak’s government that the UK faces border disruption and risks to its food supply chains ahead of the introduction of the new post-Brexit checks. The launch date has prompted concerns across industry: food importers have warned about gaps on supermarket shelves, while Dutch flower growers have said the extra paperwork will land ahead of events including Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.

In a letter, Labour frontbencher Nick Thomas-Symonds warned deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden that the January 31st start date ran the risk of queues at ports, delays to imports and increases in inflation, particularly in food prices.

Mr Thomas-Symonds asked the UK government what preparations had been made at UK ports, airports and other important logistical points to minimise delays, and what assessments had been undertaken into the inflationary impact of the controls on UK consumers.

Mr Martin urged Irish exporters to “speak to everyone in their supply chain and make sure they are ready for the new UK processes, starting January 31st”.

Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said the new controls marked a significant change in trade for Irish exporters to Britain.

Industry groups in Britain have warned that EU businesses exporting to Britain may not be fully prepared for the checks or might give up exporting to the UK after they are introduced, scrambling some supply chains.

Various Government departments have been keeping businesses up to date on these developments since the UK confirmed its plans in August. Further information is available from its Brexit website: www.gov.ie/brexit – Additional reporting the Financial Times Limited 2024

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas