Article: A guide to trade routes and customs paperwork

In this article businesses can find out about important trading requirements, trade information and read useful FAQs for cross-border trade in Ireland and Northern Ireland.


Trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland
Trade between Northern Ireland and GB
Trade between Ireland and GB
Trade between Northern Ireland and Rest of World
Further information
Useful links


Trade routes are long-distance logistical routes used for the commercial transport of cargo. In this article businesses can learn more about various trade routes and read useful FAQs for cross-border trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland.  

Trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland

As part of the Withdrawal Agreement in 2020 and its Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland both the UK and the EU Governments agreed that there would be no customs requirements on goods moving in either direction between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

As with trade moving across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there will be no customs requirements for goods moving directly between Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU. This also applies to goods that are moving from Northern Ireland via Ireland to another EU member state.

However, whilst there are no customs requirements for moving goods between Northern Ireland and the EU, businesses should ensure that they are aware if they are required to complete Intrastat declarations for these goods movements.

Intrastat is a system used by the EU to collate statistics on trade between different member states. Whilst not a member of the EU as Northern Ireland has access to the EU Single Market for Goods there will be a requirement for businesses in Northern Ireland to complete Intrastat declarations should certain thresholds be met.

The Intrastat thresholds are as follows:

  • Arrivals: More than £500,000 worth of goods from the EU into Northern Ireland.
  • Despatches: Moves more than £250,000 worth of goods from Northern Ireland to the EU.

UK Trade Info has information on how to register to submit Intrastat declarations.

Trade between Northern Ireland and GB

Since January 2021 under the Northern Ireland Protocol, businesses importing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain have faced customs requirements. Whilst the exact requirements vary depending on the goods being imported, typically this has involved the completion of customs declarations, and if the goods are "At Risk" the payment of tariffs due upon import. 

The Windsor Framework has introduced changes regarding the movement of goods. This includes the introduction of a red lane and a green lane for goods movements. Goods which are bound for Northern Ireland only will be able to avail of the green lane. Whilst goods destined for Ireland or deemed to be "At Risk" of entering Ireland will enter via the red lane.

Due to a phased implementation approach of the Windsor Framework, the full "green lane" will take effect from September 2024 for the movement of all goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, the new UK Internal Market Scheme (UKIMS) will launch on 30 September 2023, replacing the UK Trader Scheme. If eligible, businesses should ensure that they apply to register for this new scheme as a priority. 

As part of the Windsor Framework, there will be more reliance placed on live data sharing instead of customs declarations.

Businesses that move goods through the "red lane", but whose goods do not subsequently enter the EU, will be able to make use of the new duty reimbursement scheme that will allow traders to reclaim EU duty paid on goods that can be shown not to have entered the EU. The duty reimbursement scheme launched on 30 June and can apply to goods moved since 2021. Find out how to claim by visiting the guidance on GOV.UK.

From 30 September 2024, a new set of arrangements for the movement of parcels under the Windsor Framework will apply, which provides a durable basis on which to enable consumers to send and receive parcels as they do today, alongside parcel operators sharing standard commercial data with HMRC. As of that point, the same “green lane” arrangements as are applied for freight movements will also apply for parcel consignments moved between businesses. The Government will continue to work closely with parcel operators to develop these arrangements and provide support in preparing for them, including further guidance later this year.

Businesses importing goods into Northern Ireland should continue to make use of the Trader Support Service (TSS). The TSS is a free-to-use portal designed to support businesses in Northern Ireland complete customs declarations when importing goods from GB.

Next steps

  1. If eligible, businesses should ensure that they register for the new UK Internal Market Scheme.
  2. For goods that are deemed "At Risk" of entering the EU, though stay within Northern Ireland, businesses should register with the new duty reimbursement scheme which launched on 30 June 2023 to reclaim EU duties paid.
  3. Businesses should continue to use the TSS to complete supplementary declarations on goods imported from GB. These should be completed by the fourth working day of the month following the import of goods.

  4. Businesses should ensure they are familiar with the latest publications regarding the Windsor Framework.

Trade between Ireland and GB

Businesses in Ireland that are seeking to export to GB are required to complete customs declarations on all goods exported from Ireland. This will include an export declaration through the Irish Revenue Automated Export System upon departure from Ireland and an import declaration upon import into GB via HMRC’s Customs Declarations Service (CDS).
In addition to the completion of declarations, it is important that businesses understand any tariff or quota requirements. As part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and the EU, there will be no tariffs and no quotas on goods moving between Ireland and GB if businesses comply with all relevant rules of origin

In addition to customs declarations and origin requirements, businesses should consider if the products they are seeking to export are subject to any prohibitions or other restrictions. Find out more information about these prohibitions and restrictions in this PDF from

The Revenue has provided detailed information on what additional requirements you should prepare for.  

Some additional supports are provided below: 

The UK government has recently published its Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) this sets out for future customs and SPS requirements for importing goods into Great Britain. We have a useful article about the BTOM and how it will impact your business.

Trade between Northern Ireland and Rest of World

Businesses importing goods directly from a country outside of the UK or the EU will continue to face customs requirements when importing into Northern Ireland which must be completed through the Customs Declaration Service, CDS. 

Further information

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Useful links

  • GOV.UK:

Information about how to get an EORI number in Northern Ireland

Look up commodity codes, import duties, taxes and controls in NI

Information on the new computerised transit system

Check when you can account for import VAT on your VAT Return

Claim VAT refunds in Northern Ireland or the EU, if you’re established in Northern Ireland or in the EU

Check if you need to declare goods you bring into or take out of the UK

Guidance on importing live animals or animal products

Comply with UK REACH: submit and manage chemical registrations and notifications

Find out what types of Authorised Economic Operator status you can apply for

Apply to delay or pay less duty on goods you import to process or repair

Trading and moving goods in and out of Northern Ireland

Apply to access Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight

Register to make an entry summary declaration in Northern Ireland

Movement Assistance Scheme: get help with moving agrifood goods to Northern Ireland

Apply for authorisation for the UK Internal Market Scheme if you bring goods into Northern Ireland

The Green Lane pdf

The Windsor Framework - further detail and publications

  • Other resources

HMRC email updates, videos and webinars about importing and exporting

NI Customs and Trade Academy: How to group goods under one commodity code

DAERA-NI: Introduction to importing animals and animal products

DAERA-NI: Guidance for the Collection and Movement of SPS Goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland through Groupage


Article reviewed: September 2023