The UK government has today published its approach to implementing the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed with the European Union.
The Protocol sets up special arrangements that stem from the Withdrawal Agreement and apply in Northern Ireland from 1st January 2021, until at least 2024, when the first four-year consent vote process contained in the Protocol is initiated.
The Protocol covers a range of areas: human rights, the Common Travel Area, customs and trade, regulation of manufactured goods, the Single Electricity Market, some limited state aid provisions, and VAT and excise. The paper published today sets out the UK’s thinking in all of these areas. But the core of the Protocol is the provisions on customs and trade. It is these areas which are covered in most detail in the document.
It is the responsibility of the UK Government and UK authorities to give effect to the Protocol in Northern Ireland. The Protocol has as Annex 2, a list of EU law that will continue to apply in Northern Ireland – at least 2021 to 2024.
The UK approach is set out in a Cabinet Office Command Paper – here.
The paper sets out four key commitments that will underpin the UK Government’s approach to implementing the Protocol:
• There will be unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s producers to the whole of the UK market and this will be delivered through legislation by the end of the year.
• No tariffs will be paid on goods that move and remain within the UK customs territory
• Implementation of the Protocol will not involve new customs infrastructure – with any processes on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland kept to an absolute minimum so that the integrity and smooth functioning of the UK internal market is protected.
• Northern Ireland’s businesses will benefit from the lower tariffs delivered through our new Free Trade Agreements with countries like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – ensuring Northern Ireland firms will be able to enjoy the full benefits of the unique access they have to the GB and EU markets.
Today’s publication also sets out plans to establish a new business engagement forum, which will meet regularly to allow Northern Ireland’s businesses to put forward proposals and provide feedback on how to maximise the free flow of trade. The Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to join the forum.
The Withdrawal Agreement is administered by a Joint EU-UK Committee set up under the Agreement, and both the Agreement and the Protocol have dispute mechanisms.
More detail is expected, and accordingly I will write more Blog posts.