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19th January 2021

EU Exit: Postal Services

Information about the impact EU Exit will have on postal services to Northern Ireland consumers.

Last updated: 18 January 2021

Ordering from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

Will I still be able to order from Great Britain?

Yes. You can continue to receive goods from Great Britain (GB) with no new requirements. You can also continue to send goods to GB in the same way you do at the moment.

The UK Government has said that goods moving between GB and Northern Ireland (NI) are subject to a three month grace period, this means online orders and consumer parcels being posted from GB to Northern Ireland (NI) will not be subject to customs checks until 1 April 2021. However, there are new requirements for some goods such as alcohol, plants or food.

What happens after the three month grace period on parcel ends?

The UK Government has not published its guidance on how parcels moving between GB and NI should be processed, after 1 April 2021. We will publish these new arrangements as soon as the information is available.

For parcel operators and businesses moving goods from NI to GB, the UK Government has published details on which goods qualify for unfettered access when moving from NI to the rest of the UK. They have also published information about declaration requirements for goods moving in or out of NI from anywhere outside of the UK or the EU.

What are the rules for goods valued over £135?

For consumers, there are no new requirements under the three month grace period under the current guidance up to 1 April 2021.

Northern Ireland businesses receiving a parcel with goods valued over £135 will have to submit a declaration through the free Trader Support Service within three months of receiving the goods.

If you receive a parcel that has a value below £135, you can continue to order these goods from GB with no new requirements and there is no need to submit a declaration.

Do I have to pay more tax or duty on goods I order online from a GB retailer?

No. VAT on goods from GB retailers to NI customers will be charged at the current applicable rate and will to be included in the purchase price.

Will delivery from GB be more expensive?

Royal Mail universal postal service, mainly purchases through Post Office branches or online, is the only delivery service with regulated prices. Online retailers and express carrier costs for delivery services are unregulated and can vary depending on, business decision to supply, volume density, destination and size. It is therefore a commercial decision between parcel operators and retailers whether customs declaration charges after 1 April 2021 are absorbed by the business or passed on to consumers.

Are there any restrictions to what goods I can order from GB?

There are a number of restriction on excise goods such as alcohol, food, tobacco, medication and other items moving between GB and NI as a result of EU Exit. A detailed list of these items and their classifications has not yet been published.

If you have ordered items that may be classified as excise goods, such as alcohol or tobacco products, or restricted or prohibited goods, your GB retailer or supplier will need to make additional customs declarations to Royal Mail or an express carrier. This will increase the overall cost and delivery timescales of your order, and some retailers have suspended delivery of these items to NI.

Why can I no longer buy plants or seeds from a GB retailer?

GB retailers need a licence or phytosanitary certificate to export plants and plant products from GB to NI. Without this, retailers in the rest of the UK cannot supply plants or seeds to NI and you may find that some have suspended delivery of these items to NI.

What can I do if a retailer has suspended delivery to NI?

Online retailers can choose where they supply their products or services. Unfortunately, this means they are not compelled to serve particular markets, particularly if they deem it to be commercially unviable because of the cost of additional delivery costs, customs declarations or handling fees.

Consumers are free to shop around and we would encourage you to do so to ensure you are getting the best value for money.  Always shop safely online and make sure both the seller and the goods are legitimate. Before you buy your item, also check their terms and conditions about delivery, returns and exchanges.

Will delivery from GB take longer?

At the moment, most parcels between GB and NI are moving as normal. However, some areas are experiencing disruption from high levels of staff sickness due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some consumers may find their parcels are taking significantly longer than expected to be delivered. If this is the case, contact the retailer directly.

Following the end of the transition period, some retailers have also temporarily suspended delivery to NI. If you have ordered an item from a retailer who has since stopped delivering to NI, you are entitled to a refund or it is worth contacting the retailer to ensure they honour this contract.  In law, once a contract has been formed with a set total price, the seller has a legal obligation to honour this price and the buyer has a right to have the goods delivered at that price.  For further information and template letter to a seller on a contract dispute, check out Delivery Law.

If you know of any retailers withdrawing from NI, take part in our Brexit poll.

What can I do if a retailer has advertised that the deliver across the UK, but excludes NI?

If an online retailer is offering free UK delivery but excludes certain areas of the UK like NI, this could be considered a misleading action. The Consumer Council would encourage consumers to report all instances of such promotions to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  The ASA regulates against sellers offering misleading or erroneous promotions such as free UK delivery, and will issue enforcement notices to offending retailers.

Can I post a parcel to GB?

Yes. The NI Protocol ensures NI consumers and businesses have unfettered access to the rest of the UK market. There is no requirement for export declarations on goods moving from NI to GB.

Ordering from Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe to Northern Ireland

Will I still be able to order from European Union countries?

Yes. As part of the NI Protocol, there is free movement of goods between EU and NI.  For moving goods between NI and the European Union (EU), including the Republic of Ireland, there are no declaration requirements providing the goods are moving directly between NI and the EU.

Do NI consumers have to pay import duty and customs fees when ordering goods from EU countries?

No. As part of the NI Protocol, there is free movement of goods between EU and NI. However, NI will remain part of the UK VAT system but will maintain alignment with EU’s VAT rules on goods. This means NI consumers can shop and trade from EU retailers without barriers or taxes.

Can I post a parcel to an EU country?

Yes. You can post a parcel to a country in the EU in the same way you do at the moment. The procedure remains the same and you do not need to attach a customs declaration form.

Will goods be more expensive?

This will depend on the decision of the seller. There will be no tariffs on products sold between United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) which should prevent prices rising due to the UK’s exit from the EU.