Exit declarations on goods shipped from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK will burden traders with yet more Brexit red tape, industry representatives have warned.

The warning comes as the Government’s risk assessment on the Brexit deal flagged that the profitability of businesses trading to and from Northern Ireland could be affected by the cost of checks and administration.

Businesses shipping from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are already facing customs and regulatory checks.

On Monday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay acknowledged that products moving the other way will also encounter added paperwork, in the form of exit summary declarations, having previously insisted the route would be frictionless.

The declarations record what is leaving Northern Ireland and entering the Great Britain market, for safety and security purposes.

Seamus Leheny
Seamus Leheny warned of the additional admin burden facing NI transport companies (PA/FTA)

Seamus Leheny from the Freight Transport Association called on the Government to explain why the exit declarations were part of the Brexit deal, as he claimed the EU had not insisted on the measure.

Mr Leheny said transport companies in Northern Ireland would now face an added administration cost.

“This is another layer of administration and red tape which we were promised Brexit would remove,” he said.

“One of the reasons for Brexit was because of red tape, but all we are seeing for the last two and half years is the likelihood of more and more red tape.”

He added: “I think everyone was caught off guard by this because the EU weren’t pressing for this to be implemented.

“When myself and other business groups met the EU about a year and a half ago, it was one of the things the EU said OK, yes we can row back on, as part of ensuring frictionless trade from NI to GB.

“So it’s something the UK Government has decided to implement, if it does.

“What it is, is an unwelcome administration burden on transport providers.”

Goods shipped into Northern Ireland from GB will encounter administration and costs as a result of the UK applying the EU’s customs code in the region, including import declarations and entry summary declarations.

Freight at Belfast Harbour
The declarations record what is leaving Northern Ireland and entering the Great Britain market, for safety and security purposes (Liam McBurney/PA)

The impact assessment of the Brexit deal, which is not adjusted to take account of potential changes to trading behaviour, highlighted that such declarations for UK trade with the rest of the world currently cost from £15 to £56 a time.

However, the report said it was not possible to estimate the added administrative cost of GB to NI trade, due to a lack of data.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted any checks in the Irish Sea would be “light touch”.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), expressed concern.

“The new deal includes a de facto customs border in the Irish Sea, bringing with it the concept of export summary declarations,” she said.

“It is still unclear what exactly these will look like, they will be discussed and agreed by the Joint Committee during the transition period should the Prime Minister’s deal pass.

“It is, however, clear that there will be some paperwork for goods going both ways (NI to GB and GB to NI).

“Whatever these forms turn out to be, it will be very different from what we have now – adding a further administrative burden to businesses and slowing down the on-time delivery model that many companies operate.”