27th February 2023 saw political agreement reached between the EU and the UK on the Windsor Framework. The Windsor Framework is a set of new arrangements for agri-foods and medicines (and seeds, plants, trees and agri machinery; customs; VAT; and state aid) presently regulated by the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. Further information is in this UK command paper here.
The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol (known as the Northern Ireland Protocol or NIP in the UK) entered into force on 1st February 2020, and its provisions applied from 1st January 2021.
A general single certificate will be used for mixed loads of agri-food goods consumed in Northern Ireland.
Identity checks will be reduced to 5% (for agri-foods consumed in Northern Ireland) – specifically – from 1 October 2023, the frequency rate of identity checks will be 10% of all consignments of retail goods for consumption in Northern Ireland), and 8% by 1 October 2024 when all milk and dairy products are individually marked. From 1 July 2025, the frequency rate will be 5% of all consignments of retail goods, when all retail goods are individually marked.
Physical checks (as respects agri-foods consumed in Northern Ireland) will be carried out in conjunction with identity checks using a risk-based and intelligence-led approach.
Documentary checks will be carried out on all the general certificates accompanying the consignments of retail goods for consumption in Northern Ireland. These checks can be performed remotely and electronically.
UK public health standards (e.g. level of additives in food) will apply to goods moved for end consumption in Northern Ireland. Previously prohibited chilled meats, such as sausages, will be allowed.
Certificates will not be needed for organics and wine (consumed in Northern Ireland).
Agri-foods originating in the rest of the world may enter Northern Ireland (for consumption in Northern Ireland) through Britain when UK conditions are identical to EU ones (specific list of products, including New Zealand lamb and vegetables).
The UK will provide EU representatives with access to relevant UK IT databases.
Labelling “not for EU” will be deployed for agri-foods consumed in Northern Ireland.
The movement of retail goods will be monitored, with traceability and listing of the dispatching and receiving authorised establishments.
Facilitations will be suspended to address specific problems or systematic failures of compliance with the new arrangements.
It will not be a dual regulatory regime. UK public health standards will apply to agri-foods entering Northern Ireland from Britain for consumption in Northern Ireland. But EU requirements for animal health and plant health in Northern Ireland will remain fully in place.
The UK announced in December that it will construct permanent SPS Inspection Facilities. Deployment of SPS Inspection Facilities will be gradual – 1 October 2023 for the delivery of enhanced facilities and 1 July 2025 for the delivery of final facilities.
Re “not for EU” labeling – from 1 October 2023, prepacked meat and fresh milk will be individually labelled. Goods sold loose need only to be labelled at box level (e.g. apples) and easily visible signs would need to be placed next to the price tag on the shelves in the supermarkets. Posters would also be needed, placed in the supermarkets so that consumers know that the goods are not for EU. As of 1 July 2025, all retail goods (other than goods sold loose) will be individually labelled except those not subjected to official controls at border control posts in the EU (e.g.: confectionery, chocolate, pasta, biscuits, coffee, tea, liqueurs, canned fruit and vegetables, ketchup and similar shelf-stable products).
In April 2022, the EU amended its legislation to ensure the uninterrupted supply of generic medicines from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Novel medicines will be authorised and placed on the market in Northern Ireland in accordance with UK rules and UK authorisation procedures only. EU rules and authorisations will not apply to these medicines anymore. In addition, prescription medicines placed on the Northern Ireland market will not carry the EU required unique identifier/barcode to distinguish them from those placed on the EU market.
Individual packs of all medicines placed on the Northern Ireland market will be labeled “UK only”.
This is a new mechanism that will allow the UK government, at the request of 30 Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland (Stormont), in the most exceptional circumstances, as a last resort as set out in a unilateral UK Declaration (statutory instrument to be debated next Wednesday in Parliament) to stop the application of amended or replacing provisions of NIP Retained EU law, that may have a significant and lasting impact specific to the everyday lives of communities in Northern Ireland.
The Stormont Brake is wider than Agri-foods and Medicines.
The UK Institute for Government has an explainer here.
A meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place to adopt the necessary measures, translating the relevant joint solutions into legally binding commitments by making full use of its powers under the Withdrawal Agreement.
The European Commission has already made proposals to the Council for a Union position as regards, amongst other things, the decisions that need to be adopted in that meeting.
In addition, the Commission has also tabled three legislative proposals laying down, respectively, new rules for the movement of retail SPS goods, pets, seed potatoes, plants for planting and agricultural machinery from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and rules giving effect to the solution found in the area of human medicines as well as certain categories of steel subject to tariff rate quotas. Once all translations are finalised, they will be transmitted to the European Parliament and Council. Once adopted and entered into force, the Commission will adopt any necessary implementing acts.
As identified earlier, the UK will debate next Wednesday in Parliament, a statutory instrument to give effect to the Stormont Brake.