In 2018, the United States imposed a quota on Rest of World (RoW) steel, making exporting to the US less attractive, thereby supporting the competitiveness of their own industry. The EU subsequently published a safeguarding measure to prevent surplus steel being diverted to the Single Market. This is in the form of Tariff-Rate-Quotas, above which a 25% duty is levied on imports. Initially imposed for a 3-year period (to 30 June 2021), the safeguard was recently prolonged for a further three years.
Steel products entering NI from the UK mainland / GB
When the safeguarding measure was first introduced, businesses bringing steel products into Northern Ireland from GB / UK mainland did not experience any initial impact, however the position has changed since Brexit.
As GB is now deemed a ‘third country’ while Northern Ireland remains within the EU Single Market, ‘out of quota’ steel products entering NI from GB / UK mainland incur a 25% steel import duty.
The potential impact of this is significant and could lead to some business operations becoming unsustainable. However, depending on the origin of the products, it may be possible to avoid incurring the charge.
- RoW origin: Steel products originating from the Rest of the World (i.e. countries outside the EU and UK) are subject to duty of 25% when imported into Northern Ireland. However, HMRC have agreed a measure that enables businesses to access safeguard quotas (or an equivalent in-quota tariff treatment). This means that provided there is an open and relevant EU tariff rate with available balance remaining on the quarterly quota, steel import duty will not apply. The quotas operate on a first come, first served basis.
- UK Mainland / GB origin: Where the steel products entering Northern Ireland are of UK origin, an interim HMRC arrangement allows these products to benefit from the EU’s UK specific tariff rate quota.
When importing goods of GB or RoW origin it is necessary to verify whether the quota still remains open and has a balance remaining. The relevant quota order must be included on the Entry Security Declaration (ENS) and supplementary declaration. The steel should be declared as “not at risk” of moving to the EU.
The BEIS form is a critical document as this is how the quotas are managed by HMRC. When completed, the form should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org within 24 hours of declaring the goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland.
EU origin steel entering NI from UK Mainland / GB
If the steel entering Northern Ireland originates in the EU, it is not subject to the EU safeguard even if the products were in free circulation in GB before moving to Northern Ireland. This includes EU-origin steel products which have undergone some processing in GB provided that the processing is not sufficient to confer UK origin.
Steel entering NI directly from the EU
Even if it is not of EU origin, steel that is in free circulation within the EU can enter Northern Ireland directly without tariffs or customs processes.