Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds has written to Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove to call for “urgent action” to be taken as retailers pull deliveries to the region.
The letter from Minister Dodds read: “Over the last number of weeks we have seen numerous Great Britain based retailers withdraw from offering deliveries to Northern Ireland due to the lack of guidance.
On regulatory issues, we have seen retailers of plants, food and drink ceasing to offer products for delivery in Northern Ireland due to increased costs.
The UK government recently announced a grace period for three months. This means that until April 1, online retailers in Great Britain will not have to make customs declarations when sending parcels valued below £135 to Northern Ireland customers. However, it is currently unclear what will happen after April 1.
In her letter, Minister Dodds called for the UK government to:
- Urgently engage with retailers and marketplaces to seek reinstatement of delivery to Northern Ireland;
- Address the regulatory barriers which have caused delivery for some products to be halted;
- Put together a plan now to ensure that the end of the grace period does not cause retailers and marketplaces to withdraw from this market.
‘Significant cause for concern’
Diane Dodds’ letter states: “We are now seeing the impact of these changes and even at this early stage there is significant cause for concern from both businesses and consumers.
“I am particularly worried about more vulnerable consumers, in terms both of health and income.
“Delivery of goods is an essential measure at the moment, and lack of delivery places Northern Ireland consumers in a much worse position compared to Great Britain consumers.
While I welcome the guidance that was published, and the grace period included within it, this is only a short-term fix for customs and does not address the regulatory issues at all. We need the government to come up with long-term solutions.
Minister Dodds said her officials will send HMRC a list of the retailers, including marketplaces, they are aware of who are no longer offering delivery to Northern Ireland.