Article: SPS Checks

This information for businesses trading cross-border between Ireland and Northern Ireland focuses on important sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls information and key actions to get your business prepared.


Trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland (cross-border trade)
Trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
Trade between Ireland and Great Britain
Wood Packaging Material
Further information


Sanitary (human and animal health) and Phytosanitary (plant health) are measures and rules that governments use to ensure that foods and beverages are safe for public health and to protect animals and plants from pests and diseases. SPS measures and checks can take many forms, such as requiring products to come from a disease-free area, an inspection of products before being exported and while imported, or processing of products. 

Trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland (cross-border trade):

As agreed in the Northern Ireland Protocol and proposed within the Windsor Framework, goods that are traded cross-border (NI-ROI / ROI-NI), will not require any customs paperwork or physical inspections. Cross-border goods will have free movement on the island of Ireland. 

Northern Ireland to EU Member States - For goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland moving to the EU (including Ireland), there are to be no substantive changes for how goods currently move. More information is available on GOV.UK.

Trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Northern Ireland to GB - NI businesses have "unfettered access" for goods moving from NI to the rest of the UK without the need for any additional paperwork, customs, or regulatory checks.

Great Britain to NI - Within the current arrangements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, there are certain requirements traders must comply to when moving goods from GB to NI through the Trader Support Service (TSS).

With the introduction of the Windsor Framework, there will be several changes for businesses importing products into Northern Ireland from Great Britain that are subject to certain SPS rules.

Traders selling pre-packaged agri-food goods from GB-NI for final consumption will be able to join the new UK Internal Market Scheme. This scheme allows for simplified paperwork in the form of only one certificate per consignment with a small number of physical inspections. These goods will need to comply with EU rules on plant and animal diseases. More detail will be added to the GOV.UK HMRC Guidance when the scheme is fully operational.

The ban on the sale of prohibited goods such as chilled meats and sausages along with certain plants will be lifted.

The new requirements will also be extended to goods from Rest of World (ROW) countries if they have been either processed in the UK or meet UK public health standards and pose no disease risks.

There will be no set physical checks, with interventions being based on intelligence around smuggling and risk to plant/animal health.

There will be new labelling requirements for SPS Goods that are entering the Northern Ireland market. These requirements will be phased between October 2023 - 2025.

  • October 2023: Labelling requirements introduced on meat and fresh dairy.
  • October 2024: Requirements extended to all dairy products.
  • July 2025: Composite products, fruit, vegetables, and fish will be subject to labelling requirements.

Trade between Ireland and Great Britain

The export and import of live animals, products of animal origin (including fish), germinal products, animal by-products (i.e., not for human consumption) and some plants will be subject to additional SPS border checks. This is to reduce the risks of diseases, pests, or contaminants entering from third countries. It is the responsibility of the "operator responsible for the consignment" to ensure that the appropriate paperwork is in place. The operator responsible for the consignment can be the importer but is often a Customs agent acting on the importer’s behalf. Documentation (for example an Export Health Certificate, EHC) will be required and you will also be required to pre-notify your national authority prior to the goods being imported.

Great Britain to Ireland - Prior to the goods being imported, they must be pre-notified by the importer to national authorities i.e., for imports into the EU using the Trade Control and Export System (TRACES).

Ireland to Great Britain - For imports into GB using the Import of Product, Animals, Food and Feed Systems (IPAFFS). Goods must then move through a Border Control Post (BCP) capable of handling those particular goods.

Checks can then be carried out, including:

  • Documentary checks e.g., an Export Health Certificate (EHC) for animals/animal products, a phytosanitary certificate for some plants/plant products or a catch certificate for certain fish.
  • Physical identity checks to verify that the goods match those declared on the documentation. The frequency of which depends on the risk associated with the commodity/product.

Ireland goods entering GB - It is important that Irish exporters fully understand and prepare in good time for the GB import requirements. Engagement with the relevant parties in the supply chain, including the relevant GB importer, is essential. Roles should be clear, and responsibilities agreed.

Please note that the UK has postponed checks on imported food and fresh products from the EU. It is anticipated that checks on imported food into the UK from the EU will begin from 31 January 2024. The UK government are preparing to launch a new Border Target Operating Model offering more details about how these changes may be implemented.

Transiting the UK Landbridge - Animals and goods moving between Ireland and another EU Member State via GB (the UK Landbridge) must be placed under the Customs Transit Procedure, to maintain their union status. EU regulations require certain SPS controls on animals and goods re-entering the Union. This information from Irish Tax and Customs gives more guidance about importing your goods by sea or air.

Wood Packaging Material

From 1 January 2021 all wood packaging associated with goods (e.g., boxes, crates, dunnage, pallets) moving between GB and the EU must meet ISPM15 International Standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. The UK has advised that it will carry out checks on a 'risk targeted basis only'. 

Further information

GOV.UK: Guidance on moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland

GOV.UK: Food standards guidance on legal standards for labelling and composition of food products such as bottled water, milk and meat.

Food Standards Agency: Guidance on health and identification marks that apply from 1 January 2021


Article reviewed: April 2023