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Q&A

Question and Answer guide for the extension of the Authorised Trader Scheme 

Published September 2021. 

 

What are the arrangements for Authorised Traders? 

An arrangement is currently in place which allows authorised traderssuch as supermarkets and their trusted suppliers, to move some agri-food goods without the need for official certification. 

If you are moving plants or plant products from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI), you do not need official certification, such as export health certificates (EHCs)phytosanitary certificates (PCs) or marketing standards certification. 

The government will not discriminate against smaller suppliers or between different companies in implementing these practical measures. 

The following conditions will be attached to these arrangements: 

  • the goods are packaged for end consumers and they bear a label reading “These products from the United Kingdom may not be marketed outside NI”. 

  • they are destined solely for sale to end consumers in supermarkets located in NI, and they cannot be sold to other operators of the food chain. 

  • they are accompanied by a simplified official certificate globally stating the products meet all the import requirements of EU legislation. 

  • they enter NI through a designated point of entry, where they are submitted to a systematic documentary check and to a risk-based identity check on a selection of items in the means of transport. 

  • they are monitored through a channelling procedure applicable from the designated point of entry to the destination supermarket in NI. 

 

What is an Authorised trader and / or Trusted Supplier? 

Authorised traders are supermarkets and their trusted suppliers. The UK government will not discriminate against smaller suppliers or between different companies in recognising traders as authorised for the purpose of this arrangement. 

A trusted supplier is any business that independently moves its products from GB to NI, for sale in NI. 

More information can be found on gov.uk. 

 

How long will the Authorised Trader Scheme be in place? 

We will provide reasonable notice of any changes to these arrangements, recognising the importance of there being sufficient time for businesses and citizens to adapt.

One of the effects of the ‘standstill’ arrangements announced on 6 September has been to extend the grace periods already in force, including the ATS. 

We encourage all traders to continue to accelerate their readiness preparations. We will undertake further engagement with the European Commission on the detailed milestones for the phased introduction of certification and will provide further updates to traders on this. 

 

Why have you extended the Authorised Trader Scheme? 

Following a meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee on 24 February 2021, both parties agreed in a joint statement that the UK “would provide a new operational plan with respect to supermarkets and their suppliers, alongside additional investment in digital solutions for traders in accordance with the Northern Ireland Protocol.” 

Since 1 January 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force, as a result, the movement of goods from GB to NI became subject to new checks and controls. To enable businesses time to adjust to these new requirements, and to mitigate the impact on the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland, a grace period from most official certification requirements was agreed in December 2020 for products of animal origin, composite products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plants and plant products.   

The existing Scheme for Authorised Movements to Northern Ireland (STAMNI) arrangements continue. This is set out in the operational plan that we have provided to the EU, as referred to in the joint statement by the co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee of 24 February 2021.   

This operational phasing approach has been guided by delivery realities on the ground and by the priority that the UK Government and NI Executive place on protecting biosecurity. These temporary operational arrangements therefore remain consistent with the overarching objectives of the Northern Ireland Protocol by addressing the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and protecting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. We will continue discussions with the European Commission on implementation and delivery through the Specialised and Joint Committees. 

 

How come authorised traders such as supermarkets have been given a grace period from official certification when sending products from GB to NI but garden centres, and online/ postal traders haven’t been given the same?  

The scheme was designed to protect and preserve food supply into Northern Ireland while businesses adjust to the new requirements applicable under the Protocol. As such, the scheme only applies to retailers (and their suppliers) who sell food for consumption in Northern Ireland. To be eligible for the scheme, businesses needed to show that their goods were destined solely for sale to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, those goods could not be for sale to other operators of the food chain. These eligibility conditions were agreed by the UK-EU Joint Committee last year and have not changed with the continuation of the Authorised Trader Scheme to October. 

However, as recognised in the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s letter to the EU Commission on 2 February, the eligibility for these arrangements must be adapted so that all relevant local businesses and services can be included in the Authorised Trader Scheme. The UK and EU have agreed that a further Joint Committee will soon be held to provide further steers and, where appropriate, approvals on this and other outstanding problems. 

 

Is the UK government offering any financial support to businesses that trade with Northern Ireland now the transition period has ended?  

The UK Government has put in place the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS) to support and assist traders moving plants, plant products, and agrifood from GB to NI since 1 January. The aim of MAS is to increase understanding and preparedness by providing a helpline that traders can use to seek guidance on moving goods, including plants and plant products from GB to NI. The call center opened on the 16 December 2020 to assist with questions and provide support.  

MAS also minimises business uncertainty by reimbursing or defraying some of the direct costs of certification that traders incur as a result of the new requirements. If a business is moving plants or plant products from GB to NI, they do not need to pay for the phytosanitary certificates. 

Traders moving organic products from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI) are now eligible for financial support, following the expansion of the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS). 

 

What are the requirements for exports to Northern Irelandfor goods not moving under the Authorised Trader Scheme? 

As set out in the Command Paper on The UK’s Approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and proposed by the UK Government last October, there are new requirements on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. These requirements uphold the longstanding status of the island of Ireland as a single epidemiological unit and build on the existing checks on live animal movements arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain.  

Notwithstanding the arrangements under the Authorised Trader Scheme, all plants and plant products moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland need to: 

  • be pre-notified by the NI importer in advance of arrival. 

  • enter Northern Ireland via an appropriate point of entry and 

  • be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate (PC) 

To obtain a phytosanitary certificate, the operator must apply to the relevant plant health authority: the Animal and Plant Health Agency in England and Wales; the Scottish Government in Scotland; and for wood, wood products and bark only, the Forestry Commission in England, Wales and Scotland. Physical inspections for the sake of securing a phytosanitary certificate can take place inland, prior to movement to NI. 

Fruit and vegetables that have been processed, such as packaged salad, may not be subject to plant health control depending on the degree of processing. A selection of fruits (pineapple, coconut, durian, bananas and dates) are exempt from specific phytosanitary controls, and do not need to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. These products are not subject to any phytosanitary requirements. 

Further guidance can be found at gov.uk. 

 

Are there checks between GB and NI? 

There are some practical and/or administrative changes for traders in Northern Ireland.  The Northern Ireland Protocol obliges both the UK and EU to seek to streamline trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to avoid controls at Northern Ireland ports as far as possible. 

In line with that obligation, through technical engagement with the European Commission, the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive have developed helpful practical arrangements to simplify checks and controls on goods to the maximum extent.  Apart from a temporary arrangement for certain retail goods (i.e. under the Authorised Trader Scheme), a more permanent feature of the system is based on electronic checking as far as possible of documentation; and physical and identity checks managed at a local level based on risk assessments and reflecting the full range of flexibilities provided in legislation.