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With the pipe band world hoping that 2021 will see a return to pipe band competitions and championships, pipers whose pipes contain ivory and who plan to travel to the United Kingdom can apply now for a free Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC).

For some time now pipers, and other musicians with instruments that contain certain endangered species, have been subject to stricter checks when crossing borders. With the end of the UK’s transition from the European Union fast approaching, things are changing.

Anyone wishing to bring a specimen of a protected species of animal or plant into Great Britain or export from there to the European Union or Northern Ireland is required to produce a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) document on arrival.

The British Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says that a CITES document will be required that must be applied for in advance of travel and inspected and endorsed (stamped) by Border Force at one of the 29 CITES points of entry and exit.

For now, MICs are free but it is not known for how long this will continue.

• Download an application form for a free Musical Instrument Certificate here:

• Click here to go to the relevant page on the UK Government’s website.

• Download full information from the Musician’s Union.

Bagpipe manufacturers, meanwhile, have been no longer required to comply with what were hitherto strict export and import licence requirements that covered African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) for almost a year now. Virtually all African blackwood is sourced from carefully managed forests in central and southern Africa, mainly Tanzania. The CITES certificate cost up to £80 per set of pipes.

Manufacturers now only have to prove that their raw material comes from a licensed supplier (who in turn must comply with strict sustainability regulations). Finished sets of pipes and chanters are now exempt from the rules.

The change was agreed by CITES last summer and was adopted outside of the European Union on November 26, 2019 and inside the European Union a couple of weeks later.