Everyone will be aware of the challenges that Northern Ireland has faced, since the UK left the European Union. Its unique position in being part of the UK, while also maintaining a land border with the EU on the island of Ireland, has proved difficult to resolve.
The intention is to make trade between GB and NI as frictionless as within GB, eg “it should be as easy to move a sausage from London to Bangor, Wales, as it is to move it to Bangor, NI” and eliminate the effective border down the Irish Sea.
The framework is not yet in force – it is due to be enacted in October 2023 and certain parts will be phased in over a 2 year period.
- It applies only to goods moved FROM GB to NI only, for end use/consumption in NI
- If goods are further processed in NI, they must then remain in NI
- This includes EU origin goods; and ROW goods transiting via GB (as long as no dilution of GB SPS standards)
- Full range of goods including P+R (prohibited and restricted) are eligible eg chilled sausages, turkey mince
- A single, simple certificate per vehicle, signed by the competent authority
- Inspections to reduce from 10 to 5% by 2025
- Replaces the NI protocol and STAMNI scheme
- Open to retailers, caterers, schools etc
- Requires goods labelling “not for EU” at product level (exemptions for goods sold loose/catering facilities) – this will be phased in over 2 years, with the highest risk goods first (meat and fresh dairy)
- There will be virtual “Red” and “Green” lanes.
- Red lane for EU destined goods (even if enter via NI) and will require full EU controls
- Green lane for compliant goods to NI
- NI to ROI and ROI to NI will have unrestricted access ie an open border
- Shipments from NI to GB – NI qualifying goods will not require any EHC
- Aim to prevent “back door” transit of GB goods to ROI via NI and vice versa
- Stormont brake option in case of dispute
Given the political situation in Northern Ireland, this is always a delicate negotiation, and it is unlikely that any agreement would totally satisfy all parties, but hopefully a balance can be struck that will allow everyone to move forward.
No doubt further questions will arise and loopholes will be found and closed in due course.