Article: The Border Target Operating Model

On 29 August 2023 the UK government announced the publication of its new Target Border Operating Model.

What is the Border Target Operating Model?

This Border Target Operating Model is a key part of the UK government's 2025 Border Strategy and sets out the processes and requirements for importing into Great Britain, along with steps being taken to support businesses trade effectively. A downloadable copy of the full Border Target Operating Model can be found on GOV.UK.

My business is based in Northern Ireland and trades with GB. What does this mean for my business?

The new Border Target Operating Model has reaffirmed the UK government’s position of Unfettered Market Access for businesses based in Northern Ireland who move qualifying Northern Ireland goods to GB. Qualifying goods will not be subject to customs or Sanitary / Phytosanitary requirements upon entry into GB. This is irrespective of whether the qualifying goods are moved directly from Northern Ireland to Great Britain or indirectly via Ireland.

What is meant by qualifying Northern Ireland goods?

The term 'Northern Ireland qualifying good' is used to describe any good which is not subject to a customs procedure, and which is therefore in free circulation within Northern Ireland.

Goods which have been processed in Northern Ireland are automatically classed as qualifying goods as long as all components used were in free circulation within the UK. More information about Northern Ireland qualifying goods can be found in the GOV.UK guidance about Moving qualifying goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. We would encourage you to read this article to understand if your goods meet the requirements to be qualifying goods.

What Is meant by unfettered market access?

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

For most businesses in Northern Ireland the rules around moving goods to Great Britain will remain unchanged following the publication of the Border Target Operating Model.

There are some limited exceptions to this. If a business is moving food or feed products from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, they will need to be a registered or approved Northern Ireland food or feed business to be able to avail of unfettered market access with the GB market.

It is important to remember that unfettered market access does not apply to goods which travel from Ireland via Northern Ireland to Great Britain. It is therefore important that businesses understand their trade routes to ensure that they can avail of the benefits of unfettered market access.

What changes have been made to Sanitary and Phytosanitary rules in the Border Target Operating Model?

For more information on SPS rules please see our article about SPS requirements.

The Border Target Operating Model has set out the new requirements for importing goods subject to Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements into Great Britain. These changes will be phased in throughout 2024 and are summarised below:

31 January 2024
The introduction of health certification on imports of medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin from the EU. Low risk plant products and products pf plant origin will no longer require pre notification.

31 October 2024
The introduction of documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin from the EU.

In addition to SPS requirements imports into Great Britain from Ireland will also become subject to full customs controls, with businesses able to avail of a reduced dataset of information required.

At this date the UK government will also introduce the Single Trade Window which aims to reduce the level of duplication involved in import processes. The introduction of a Single Trade Window is a key aspect of the UK Government’s 2025 Border Strategy. For more information on the Single Trade Window and how to prepare for its introduction please visit our article about Trade digitalisation and the Single Trade Window.

Further help preparing for the implementation of the UK Border Target Operating Model

If you need help understanding how the implementation of the UK Border Target Operating Model will impact upon your business, please use the Cross-Border Trade Hub chatbot where, subject to eligibility, you may be able to receive specialist advice from an approved InterTradeIreland consultant.


icons8-speech-bubble-66  Do you need further assistance?

InterTradeIreland support can be accessed by engaging with our chat function. You may also be eligible for fully funded consultancy advice, subject to criteria.

Simply click the icon at the bottom right to get started.


Article reviewed: September 2023