Belfast Telegraph reported that the steel sector in Northern Ireland is confused and uncertain after it emerged a surprise 25% safeguard duties will be imposed on imports not from Great Britain. The quota started on 1 January, after the end of the Brexit transition period. Manufacturers and traders in Northern Ireland had no idea this extra charge imposed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs would be added to their costs until last Friday. Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Mr Colin McGrath said he has written to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Rishi Sunak on the issue. He said "Let's be under absolutely no allusion. This decision by the UK Government has the potential to decimate the steel industry in the north. I have already written to Rishi Sunak MP and called upon him to answer why the duty was imposed, why it was imposed without warning and without consultation with businesses here, and I am calling for it to be scrapped."
British Labour MP Mr Stephen Kinnock, whose constituency includes the Port Talbot Steelworks in Wales, has raised the issue in the House of Commons Future Relationship with the European Union Committee. He told RTE News "Once we have maxed out our quota, which is expected to happen in the coming months, then every tonne of steel that the UK exports to the EU, and by EU here we include NI, will be subject to a 25% tariff. The minute that happens, the price of your steel becomes uncompetitive, and this would have a hugely damaging impact. This is why it's absolutely vital that the UK government engages intensively with the EU, to ensure that our steel industry can continue to export to the EU on a quota and tariff free basis. This issue is massively compounded by the fact that steel going from GB to NI is included in the quota. So, there's no difference between steel going to Germany from the UK and steel going to Belfast. It is part of the same quota."
The Brexit Protocol means that Northern Ireland is treated as if it were part of EU's single market. Following Brexit, the UK has its own quarterly steel safeguard for January-June 2021, mirroring the European system. Under the Brexit trade deal, traders and manufacturers in Great Britain are protected for at least six months by a quota safeguard, meaning that the 25% tariff does not immediately apply. But negotiators did not include Northern Ireland in the quota arrangement. The protocol terms also mean that any exports from Britain to here will count as part of the UK's quota. Once it is exceeded, then tariffs of 25% would apply on British steel entering Northern Ireland.