Economy Minister calls for urgent action over deliveries to NI

Michael McHugh, PA
·2-min read

Stormont’s Economy Minister has called for urgent action from the UK Government on parcel deliveries to Northern Ireland.

It followed the end of the Brexit transition period and the establishment of the Northern Ireland Protocol which affects trade to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Diane Dodds attested to “significant confusion” in the e-commerce market from businesses and consumers.

Mrs Dodds said: “This can be detrimental for consumers and mean that they may be more vulnerable to scams or have less choice in price and range of goods.

“To date, my officials and The Consumer Council have been responding to queries on this.”

The DUP is opposed to the protocol because of its impact on the internal market of the UK.

The DUP minister added: “I now want to see action from UK Government aimed at businesses in Great Britain to clarify the position as there is currently little understanding of this.

“I wrote to Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove on the issue last month and will continue to call for this to be addressed urgently.”

The UK government had announced a grace period for three months for deliveries to Northern Ireland.

This means that until April 1 online retailers in Great Britain will not have to make customs declarations when sending parcels to consumers.

Mr Gove wrote to his counterpart at the European Commission, Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, this week.

He said temporary arrangements in place for parcels, including for Royal Mail Group, moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland must remain until at least January 1 2023, to allow for time for a “light-touch” permanent solution for parcels destined for consumers to be properly codified.

The Cabinet Office minister added: “It is also important that the regulatory barriers which retailers have indicated are preventing deliveries to individual consumers residing in Northern Ireland (for example for delivering organic foods or plant material) must also be set aside for that period at least, given that these deliveries to citizens clearly have no relevance whatsoever to the EU Single Market.

“Further consideration will be needed on when to introduce requirements for parcels destined for businesses.”

Mrs Dodds said it is unclear what will happen after April 1.

The Minister added: “In terms of protecting consumers, I also want to see longer term solutions.

“The UK Internal Market Bill was passed at the end of last year to ensure that there was a functioning framework for the UK Internal Market.

For most people the functioning of a UK Internal Market is most visible in e-commerce.”

The issues that impact Northern Irish consumers are reserved responsibilities of the UK Government.

The Consumer Council has published frequently asked questions for consumers.