HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has issued a statement to UK businesses trading across the Irish Sea that it will take a "sympathetic" approach to new customs rules in January. Northern Ireland will leave the EU's customs union at the end of the Brexit transition in January.
However, HMRC will enforce EU customs rules at its ports, meaning goods coming from Great Britain will need declarations. The organisation estimates that will involve 11 million declarations a year.
HMRC official Aidan Reilly told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs committee his organisation was "acutely aware" that many traders are going to be entirely new to these customs processes.
The figure of 11 million declarations was questioned by Alliance MP Stephen Farry, claiming that industry sources in Northern Ireland found this figure ‘very, very low’ and the figure put forward by the Trader Support Scheme (TSS) was 30 million.
Mr Reilly said the number was "uncertain", while another HMRC official, Mark Denney, said he was "comfortable" with the figures.
The issue of duty free sales at Northern Ireland airports after the transition period ends was raised by DUP MP for East Londonderry, Gregory Campbell. He wanted to be assured the local airports would be given the same opportunities as airports in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. He said senior staff from Belfast International Airport had written to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove about this issue.
It is understood that officials at Belfast International Airport have concerns that airports in the Republic of Ireland would be placed in a more advantageous position when it comes to duty free sales. It is thought they have called for a duty free tax regime similar to the one used in Jersey.