Posted on Monday 6 May 2019 by John Mulgrew

Border 1

Northern Ireland exporters could avoid some of the damaging impact and friction of a hard Brexit by adopting the Government’s ‘trusted trader’ status, Ulster Business can reveal.

According to Safeguard AEO, a firm which assists businesses in getting the green light for the so-called Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) trading quality mark, the global arrangement could help firms avoid heavy friction with trade, following Brexit.

The status is a quality marker, which the Government says allows businesses to fast-track shipments through customs, and is something which could be crucial if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

And while such an arrangement has not yet been firmed up by the Government, Richard Thompson of Safeguard AEO believes it’s something which is seriously being considered.

According to figures reported by the BBC, 749 applications for AEO were received between June 2016 and January this year, with fewer than half the applications being approved.

“It is dependent on the arrangement that is put in place between Dublin and say Belfast,” Mr Thompson says.

“If you are moving stuff from the north to the south, then that accreditation will be recognised in the south, and those goods could just move (freely).”

The AEO is a global scheme, which was first introduced by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

The firm provides software and support to both small and large firms, taking them through a green, amber and red light system for the various stages of the complex AEO system, ensuring each area meets the correct standards before the application is submitted.

“Businesses should be thinking very seriously about getting this accreditation. Either, they will need it when we leave, or they will need it if we stay,” Mr Thompson said.

The status applies primarily to physical goods being transported across customs areas, including manufacturers, agri-business and general retail.

Martin Dubbey, managing director of Safeguard AEO, said: “The big concern is not just the Northern Ireland border with the Republic. You also have 500 HGVs coming out every day down to the port, and then across.

“I think there has to be some sort of fudge (around the UK’s exit).”

Meanwhile, Karen Wheeler, who heads the UK Border Delivery Group, has told a group of businesses here that there is no magic technological solution for preventing a hard border in Ireland.

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