Northern Ireland set for pivotal post-Brexit business gateway role
Northern Ireland set for pivotal post-Brexit business gateway role Firms in Great Britain who want to access the EU market will increasingly do so through offices based in Northern Ireland, after new rules governing the movement of goods between the two regions were introduced on September 30.
Speaking at the AGM of the Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON), held in Belfast this month, Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the country was making preparations to become a “gateway to Europe” as regulations arising from the Windsor Framework come into force. This includes the UK Internal Market Scheme (UKIMS), effective from September 30, which will enable companies in Great Britain to “green lane” products into Northern Ireland and bypass stringent customs checks. “Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK that will have barrier-free access to the EU26,” said Anderson.
“We can provide that gateway to both the EU and UK markets, and we are working closely with the UK government on the ways and means to do best this.” Initiatives underway to stimulate investment in the country include addressing a skills gap, corporation tax incentives and promoting NI as a hub for sustainability and technology-focused businesses. With 68 per cent of firms in Northern Ireland only trading within the country itself, and trade with the Republic of Ireland – at £5.2 billion – currently twice that of trade with the rest of the EU, there is huge potential for growth, he said. TIMCON’s meeting also heard an update on post-Brexit plant health requirements affecting the pallet and packaging industry by Aoife Smith from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). As facilitators of the movement of most manufactured goods, the timber packaging and pallet industry will benefit from any boost in 2 trade between the two regions. However, the Windsor Framework in its current form does not give wooden pallets and packaging exemption from the requirement to be heat treated for moving products between the UK and EU, which was introduced as the result of Brexit. TIMCON is continuing dialogue with the UK and Northern Ireland governments on the issue.
In a virtual address to the meeting, TIMCON President John Dye gave an update on a “challenging 12 months”, and the organisation’s work in areas including meetings of the Advisory Committee on Packaging on the introduction of UK’s EPR regulations – which he said has been delayed by at least 12 months. David Daw of environmental compliance consultant Valpak gave the meeting insight into latest developments on EPR as well as the EU packaging waste regulations. Dye said because of the unique sustainability status of wood, TIMCON would continue to lobby for recycling targets to remain low until a reuse scheme proposed by the government is finalised. “When the proposed reuse incentive scheme is introduced, then organisations such as TIMCON will be more supportive of higher targets,” he said. “If accepted, this scheme will help meet two important goals: firstly, to increase the number of times wooden packaging and pallets are reused and prevent premature recycling; and secondly, to increase the use of wooden transportation tools globally, creating more demand for tree planning, helping the government move the country further towards its goals of a more sustainable, circular economy.”
The AGM also heard an update on the challenges and opportunities in Northern Ireland’s forestry industry from John Joe O’Boyle, CEO of Forest Agency; and a presentation of the GDPR obligations for pallet and packaging businesses. TIMCON’s membership increased once again during the past year.