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The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on 31 March 2020. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) came into effect when the Transition Period ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020 and trade between the EU (Including Ireland) and the UK has been on the basis of the  TCA since then.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, together with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, means that Ireland’s key objectives in the Brexit process have been achieved, in particular:

  • Protection of the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland;
  • Ensuring the best possible outcome for trade and the economy, notably tariff and quota free trade with the UK and protection of Ireland’s place in the Single Market;
  • Maintenance of the Common Travel Area;
  • Our continued commitment to our place at the heart of Europe 

and a context that enables the bilateral relationship between Ireland and the UK to develop positively into the future.

On the Trade and Cooperation Agreement specifically:

  • It provides for tariff and quota free goods trade.
  • It protects the Single Market that is so important for our future prosperity and ensures fair competition for Irish businesses.
  • It does not replicate the status quo ante. The UK’s decision to leave the EU means that the EU-UK relationship cannot be as close as it was when they were members of the EU.
  • This means that it remains absolutely vital for businesses and citizens to prepare for the changes that came on 1 January, especially regarding checks and controls for goods moving from, to or through Great Britain. The seamless trade existed up to 31 December 2020 has ended.
  • The EU and UK now have an agreed approach on all issues relating the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, with close cooperation on the full and effective implementation of the Protocol

The full text of the Agreement, along with supporting documents, can be found here.

The UK no longer applies the rules of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. This means that any business that moves goods from, to or through the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, are now subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that did not previously apply to such trade. 

The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has come into effect, which means that many of the impacts of Brexit do not apply to trade with Northern Ireland (see Trading with Northern Ireland below). The text of the Protocol can be found here.

Brexit has meant changes in the application of regulation or standards when placing goods on the EU market. These include:

  • UK certification bodies cannot be used to certify products for the EU market.
  • UKAS accredited test certificates are not recognised where 'accreditation' within the meaning of Regulation No 765/2008 applies.
  • Authorised representatives cannot be based in GB.

But some things have not changed. EU law still applies to all products placed on the EU market, including those from the UK.  The rules that apply are those where the product is placed on the market, not where it is manufactured.

This includes:

  • CE marking if required by EU product legislation,
  • Certification by an EU notified body if required by EU product legislation,
  • Having a valid and up to date EU Declaration of Conformity.

There is more information in Product certification & standards below.

There is information on the full impact of Brexit and what you can do to mitigate them, including the supports available to business, on the Irish Government website.

There is also information concerning future relations with the United Kingdom on the EU Commission website.
 

Product Certification and Accreditation

Within the EU there is a comprehensive regulatory framework to operate effectively for the safety and compliance of industrial products to protect the various public interests and for the proper functioning of the single market.

The two key pieces of legislation are:

In addition, there are 34 different pieces of EU legislation covering different types of manufactured products ranging from construction products to pressure equipment (see list here).

EU product legislation has not applied in the UK since the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. This has implications for businesses who use UK based certification bodies or accredited test facilities. Find out here what you must do because of the changes that have taken place.

Accreditation and Test Certificates
Many Irish businesses use UK laboratories to demonstrate product performance meets regulatory requirements. This applies both to manufacturers self-certifying their products and to manufacturers using a UK test result as part of a broader EU regulatory submission. 

The UK Accreditation Service has ceased to be a national accreditation body within the meaning and for the purposes of Regulation No 765/2008 from the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. As a consequence, its accreditation certificates are no longer be considered as 'accreditation' within the meaning of Regulation No 765/2008 and are no longer valid or recognised in the EU pursuant where accreditation within the meaning of Regulation No 765/2008 applies.

You can get more information from the Irish National Accreditation Body website.

EU Blue Guide
The Blue Guide is a comprehensive guide to the operation of the EU single market for manufactured products. It is available on the EU Commission website.
 

Standards

A range of standards are referenced in Irish legislation. These include:

  • International standards (ISO, IEC, etc.),
  • European Standards (including harmonised European Standards),
  • Irish national standards (i.e. a standard specification declared or deemed to have been declared under section 16 of the National Standards Authority Act 1996),
  • National standards from other countries (including British Standards), and
  • Standards developed by trade bodies and other entities.

They are also referenced in other documents, including guidelines, by-laws, regulations, standards (i.e. guidance documents published by State bodies) and other regulatory.

The impact on the use of British Standards in areas of national competence which are not the subject of EU legislation is minimal.

However, where EU legislation mandates the use of harmonised European Standards it is not permitted to use UK Approved Standards. You can find more information here.
 

Trading with Northern Ireland

The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland came into effect at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.  It means there is no hard border on the island of Ireland and Ireland’s place in the EU Single Market and Customs Union is protected.

Under the Protocol EU product legislation continues to apply in Northern Ireland and it is treated as if it is part of the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

Goods moving between Northern Ireland and the EU continue to do so with no significant changes and the responsibilities of economic operators in the EU are generally the same as if they are trading within the EU Single Market.

There is more information in Economic operators.
 

Importing from the United Kingdom

All UK products placed on the EU market must comply with the requirements of EU product legislation - the rules that apply are those where the product is placed on the market, not where it is manufactured.

This means that all products must meet the essential requirements set out in EU legislation, be CE marked if required by EU product legislation, certified by an EU notified body if required by EU product legislation and have a valid and up to date EU Declaration of Conformity.

You can get more information on product certification here.

Economic Operators
The responsibilities of businesses importing goods from Great Britain changed on 1 January 2021. EU businesses importing products from third countries, including the UK, are defined as importers under EU law. Importers take on many of the responsibilities of non-EU manufacturers. You should:

  • Find out the additional responsibilities you will be taking on
  • Engage with the manufacturers of the products
  • Ensure that you will be able to get the information and assurances you need
  • Be able to access the technical file if required by market surveillance authorities
  • Ensure your details are included in packaging and product information leaflets

Find out about the additional responsibilities you will take on as an importer here.

Customs
The UK has left the EU Customs Union which means that goods imported from Great Britain:

  • Require an import declaration
  • An import Safety and Security declaration                          
  • Are subject to customs control
  • May require a licence under prohibitions and restrictions rules
  • May incur Value-Added Tax (VAT), Excise Duty and Customs Duties.

Irish importers are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which you can register for on the Revenue Commissioners website.

There is more information on the Revenue Commissioners website.
 

Exporting to Great Britain

The UK has put in place a new legal framework for product certification whereby UK legislation replaced EU legislation in the UK from 1 January 2021.  UK product legislation applies to products placed on the Great Britain market, that is England, Scotland and Wales.

The Protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland means that EU product legislation continues to apply to the Northern Ireland market (see Trading with Northern Ireland above). There is more information on trading with Great Britain in Economic operators.

UK product legislation transposed EU product legislation into UK law, so many of the details are similar. Irish exporters should become familiar with the UK legislation that will apply to their products. There is more information on the UK Government website.

UK Transition Period
While UK product legislation has applied since 1 January 2021, it includes a transition period up to the end or 2021 during which CE marked products can still be placed on the Great Britain market.

These products must have a valid EU Declaration of Conformity, be certified by an EU notified body to EU harmonised standards where required by EU product legislation.

There is a longer transition period for medical devices of 2.5 years which means CE marked medical devices will be accepted in Great Britain up to 30 June 2023.

Once the UK transition period ends CE marked products will no longer be accepted for the Great Britain market.

There is more information on the UK transition period on the UK Government website.

Customs
The UK has left the EU Customs Union which means that it is treated the same as other third country. Goods exported to Great Britain require an export declaration (including a Safety and Security declaration), are subject to customs control and may require a licence under prohibitions and restrictions rules.

Irish exporters are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which you can register for on the Revenue Commissioners website.

There is more information on the Revenue Commissioners website.

Other Issues

ISPM15 is an international phytosanitary (plant health) measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that sets down standards for the phytosanitary treatment and marking of Wood Packaging Material (WPM). WPM is a term used to describe pallets, crates, dunnage etc. used in international trade for the transport of goods of all kinds. The aim of ISPM15 is to prevent the international movement and spread of disease and insects harmful to the health of plants, trees forests or ecosystems.

Regulation (EU) 2016/2031 sets out EU legal basis and minimum standards for the registration, authorisation, and supervision of manufacturers of WPM. The regulation applies to all EU Member States and means that the EU is usually treated as a single entity and ISPM15 does not generally apply to WPM used in trade between EU Member States.

As EU regulations no longer apply in the UK all WPM used in trade between the EU and Great Britain has to be ISPM15 compliant, i.e. have undergone the correct treatment and carry the correct mark.

Regulation (EU) 2016/2031 continues to apply in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland which means that ISPM15 does not generally apply to WPM used in trade with NI (with certain exceptions).

There is more information available on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine website.

Certification to any of the International Standards Organisations Management Systems Standards such as ISO 9001 Quality, ISO 14001 Environment or ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety are not directly affected by Brexit. 

Having internationally recognised certification such as ISO 9001 Quality or ISO 14001 Environment may be advantageous for Irish companies who export to the UK or who tender for UK based contracts.