Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and Fabric Yard

In case you didn't know, I'm sure it's not always obvious when visiting our website but Fabric Yard is a Northern Ireland company. We are based in Portstewart, a small seaside town at the very north of both Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland. Being in Northern Ireland we are part of the United Kingdom and it's parliamentary democracy but with our own devolved government with it's own aspects of power.  Northern Ireland is also separate to Great Britain (England, Scotland & Wales) in both legal jurisdiction and by the Irish Sea. For those purchasing in Great Britain this should make no difference to purchasing elsewhere in the UK. We use Royal Mail & UK courier companies. For those purchasing in the EU, due to the Northern Ireland Protocol which means Northern Ireland is effectively still in the European Customs Union for goods, trading should be as pre-Brexit. For those outside the EU, things haven't changed either. You will not be charged VAT by us but we attach customs documents and you will be charged the relevant taxes at the destination country. 

So it's been the guts of 2 1/2 years since Brexit and I'll be honest, at Fabric Yard we are still having some issues with regards EU orders. This should not be the case. The various departments in charge have had 897 days to sort this mess we've termed Brexit. Northern Ireland should be in a fantastic position to deal with business in the European Union. We should be shouting from the rooftops that we can still sell to our EU customers on pre-Brexit terms. No VAT charges at customs (it's charged at the time of purchase as pre-Brexit), no customs charges which should also mean no clearance fees either. It should be seamless.

Ailis packing orders


In reality this isn't the case. I've lost count of the hours I've spent tracking and tracing parcels through Royal Mail, helping customers who have been charged VAT for a second time at the point of entry at their destination country, and i've lost count of the number of items returned to us because of 'incorrect customs information' when we haven't put a CN22 label on our EU parcels (there shouldn't be any - if we did this our customers would definitely get charged VAT a second time along with customs fees and clearance fees). It's beyond frustrating. We've lost money. And so I thought I'd take a few minutes to give our European customers an update on things as of 16th June 2022 and make sure they know how best to avoid this and what they should do if it happens to them.


1. Carefully consider using the courier option at checkout rather than Royal Mail. It's not always financially viable but do take into consideration there can be some sporadic issues with Royal Mail international services to the EU.

2. Know your rights. Should your parcel coming from us here in Northern Ireland be stopped in customs and charges applied, please contact them and explain that due to the Northern Ireland Protocol there should be no VAT or customs applied to your parcel. You have already paid VAT at the time of order payment. Contact us if you do not receive a satisfactory response from your parcel handler at the destination country and we will do what we can to help. Should you end up paying VAT and customs, you may be able to get this refunded from the carrier at destination country but this is in no way guaranteed by us.


I should stress that not all parcels being sent via Royal Mail are having issues. In reality it's perhaps happening to only 5-10% of parcels however this is 5-10% too many. There is much discussion right now at UK government level as how to remove the Northern Ireland protocol. From what I gleam from conversations and from my own personal experience, this is not what many people in NI want. As I don't have statistical information I won't venture to say it's not what the majority want but that political conversation is for another day. Things may change and we will cross that bridge when we come to it. 

In the meantime, I want to thank all my EU customers over the last few years and especially those who have experienced these issues and handled them with great patience, it's very much appreciated! I can assure you of our upmost attention. As previously mentioned, it hits about 5-10% of our EU parcels from personal experience. I don't want to put off potential customers, I want to make sure you know what issues we have experienced and the best way to deal with them. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to contact us at

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