EU steel can access Northern Ireland without duty

European steel can be imported into Northern Ireland without paying a 25pc duty, the UK government has said.

There will be no quota or duty for European steel, meaning it will have unfettered access to the country, contrary to previous advice from UK government agencies.

Material from the rest of the world will still have to pay the duty, while UK-origin material needs to use an “interim solution” to avoid duties — this involves additional paperwork and informing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of Great Britain-origin sales into Northern Ireland. There is no process to allow for Great Britain-origin steel to be imported into Northern Ireland and be registered against the UK’s quotas within the EU steel safeguard scheme, so the interim solution is required.

Some market participants suggested the EU had said late in December that shipments into Northern Ireland could not be drawn down against its import quota for the UK, leading to the imposition of the duty. After lobbying by industry, this has changed, meaning the UK can access the European quota for its shipments into Northern Ireland — Northern Ireland is, essentially, part of the EU, for customs arrangements. UK producers hope the EU quota for UK material will be extended to allow for this volume into Northern Ireland.

The UK would like to negotiate a different approach to the rest of the world duties going forward. These limit accessibility to third-country imports and give European producers an advantage into Northern Ireland.

The status of imports into Northern Ireland has been very unclear since the end of the transition period — some producers have pulled offers as a result awaiting further clarity.

By Colin Richardson