The United Kingdom has agreed with the European Union a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland which seeks to significantly reduce the number of checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The Windsor Framework would create two ‘lanes’ for goods which are arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain:
- A green lane for goods remaining in Northern Ireland (for which there will be minimal checks or paperwork);
- A red lane for goods which might be sent onto the EU (which will still have checks).
Some product bans currently in place for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain (for example on chilled sausages) will also be removed, and Northern Ireland will no longer apply EU VAT rules or alcohol duties on certain goods (e.g., immovable goods).
- The same food will now be available on Northern Irish shelves as in the rest of the UK as UK public health standards will apply to food with end consumption in Northern Ireland. “Not for EU” labelling will be introduced for certain higher-risk food products on a transitional basis.
- There will be simplified procedures for imports of plants for planting and agricultural machinery from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
- New customs arrangements will allow goods being moved by trusted traders that are not at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market to move with dramatically simplified requirements, with all parcels now exempt from the main customs requirements (including business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer).
- Northern Ireland will now have access to all medicines, including novel medicines, at the same time as the rest of the UK as UK public health and consumer standards will now apply.
- Identity checks will eventually be reduced to 5%, with physical checks following a risk-based approach.
The new framework also introduces the ‘Stormont Brake’ which will allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to object to new EU rules being enacted in Northern Ireland, if 30 Northern Irish politicians from at least two parties sign a petition.
The package of instruments agreed will be approved at the next meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee (expected to take place in March 2023). The European Commission and UK Government must then translate this into legislation in order to implement the newly agreed rules.