UK implementation of Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol (Northern Ireland)

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.

COVID-19 New State Guidance (Northern Ireland)

England yesterday issued new state guidance, and Ireland (the Republic) issued a Roadmap some days ago (see recent posts about these).

Northern Ireland has now issued new state guidance – here.

Unlike England and the Republic, Northern Ireland is not proposing specific target dates.

Apart from garden centres reopening, no changes to workplace restrictions are proposed. The next review is 28 May.

Withdrawal Agreement Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol (Northern Ireland)

I posted earlier about the first meeting of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee. The first meeting of the Specialised Committee that deals with the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol has also been held. Note, this Specialised Committee will also have a specific advisory group report to it.

The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is a particularly tricky aspect of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement that was signed late in 2019. It requires new arrangements to be set up for Northern Ireland. I have posted about this before.

The EU issued (and published) on 30 April a Technical Note on the implementation of the Protocol – here.

At various points, EU Technical Note reminds that from the end of the transition period, the UK has committed to apply in Northern Ireland the provisions of EU law listed in Annex 2 to the Protocol relating to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS), products, and goods requirements.

The altered Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers and Checklists for Northern Ireland will have these Annex 2 EU Law identified at the head of the Registers. We are working to the 31st December 2020 deadline for these alterations.

COVID-19 Roadmap (Ireland)

Per its COVID-19 law, the Irish state reviewed its COVID-19 lockdown (premises restrictions etc) last week and issued a Roadmap of dates of easing of the lockdown rules.

This Roadmap is here. The next stage applies from tomorrow. This next stage has no lifting of premises restrictions or allowance for outdoor work.

I posted some days ago with the EU Joint Roadmap for setting a unified approach to easing lockdown rules in EU member states.

The EU Joint Roadmap is here.

On the island of Ireland, the Northern Ireland jurisdiction of the UK has the capacity to issue separate instructions that differ from those on the neighbouring island of Britain (jurisdiction of the UK), but is unlikely to do this to a substantive extent. Both legal entities north and south of the border on the island of Ireland exchange information about their respective COVID-19 rules regularly.

The UK state will review its COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday, and is circulating privately (unpublished as yet) new Workplace Rules. I wrote a separate Blog post about this.

COVID-19 Workplace Social Distancing (Northern Ireland)

The Northern Irish government has issued Workplace Social Distancing guidance – here.

Note the careful listing of business activities that may remain open under the law, distinguishing between essential and non-essential.

Any business that does remain open must follow the hygiene and social distancing rules here.

I blog posted before about rules issued in Northern Ireland – see the Northern Ireland category in the Blog archive.

Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee (Northern Ireland)

The UK left the EU at end of January 2020. The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (an international treaty) requires a Joint Committee staffed by the EU and the UK to operate the Withdrawal Agreement going forward.

The Withdrawal Agreement contains specific measures that will apply in Northern Ireland after the transition period expires, i.e. from 1st January 2021.

The Joint Committee (amongst other matters) will oversee and operate these Northern Ireland measures.

The first meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place on Monday 30th March (by remote means).

The meeting will be co-chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

1. Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

2. UK/EU Updates on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement

3. Tasks and responsibilities of the Specialised Committees

4. AOB

The UK Delegation will include:

●   Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

●   The Paymaster General, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP

EU Law in UK 2021 (3) (Northern Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is next Friday.

The UK states the Transition Period will end on 31st December, and not a later date.

From 1 Jan 2021, whilst GB will not accept new EU law with implementation dates beyond the end of the Transition Period, Northern Ireland will stay aligned with those EU rules that are relevant to this Blog –

(1) legislation on product requirements

(2) sanitary rules for veterinary control (“SPS rules”)

(3) rules on agricultural production and marketing

Annex 2 to the (Withdrawal Treaty Northern Ireland/Ireland) Protocol lists the areas in which Northern Ireland will stay aligned with EU product/technical standards. The areas (relevant for our purposes) are as follows:

• goods—general provisions (including product safety);
• motor vehicles, including tractors;
• lifting appliances;
• gas appliances;
• pressure vessels;
• measuring instruments;
• construction products and machinery;
• electrical and radio equipment;
• textiles and footwear;
• cosmetics and toys;
• explosives and pyrotechnics;
• medicinal products;
• medical devices;
• substances of human origin;
• chemicals;
• pesticides and biocides;
• waste;
• environment and energy efficiency;
• marine equipment;
• food—general, hygiene, ingredients, contact material, and, other matters;
• animal feed—products and hygiene;
• Genetically Modified Organisms;
• live animals, germinal products and products of animal origin;
• plant reproductive material;
• sanitary and phytosanitary standards;
• ‘other’, including provisions relating to crude oil, tobacco, crystal glass, weapons.

This means the 2019 Single-Use Plastics Directive would be implemented in Northern Ireland, as it would be in Ireland.

Northern Ireland systems (subscribers’ EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists) are marked Brexit Transition, as are GB systems and GB variants (England, Scotland, Wales), but please note the Register layout will differ (to take account of the Protocol).

Please continue to follow this Blog, as further details emerge.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January (next Friday)

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is now enacted as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (the UK 2020 Act). It amends the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and will be added to the Brexit Law List, in the EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists of subscribers systems.

The Bill was enacted unaltered. I already Blog posted about the Bill contents before Christmas. The Bill Explanatory Notes are here.

In brief :

(1) The EU-UK Withdrawal Treaty is now ratified on the UK side.

(2) The EU-UK Withdrawal Treaty is here (ratification is proceeding on the EU side).

(3) The UK must set up an Independent Monitoring Authority to oversee the citizen rights elements of the Withdrawal Treaty.

(4) Both sides must set up the Joint Committee, and its sub-committees, to manage implementation of the Withdrawal Treaty.

(5) A transition period will commence from 1st February and last until 31st December 2020 (the UK 2020 Act terms this an Implementation Period).

(6) The Withdrawal Treaty provides for a single extension of the transition period for up to one or two years, the final date for application for this is end June.

The UK 2020 Act prevents the application. So for an application to be made, a further Act would need to be enacted on this point.

(7) The Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Treaty commences at the end of the transition period. I blog posted already about this Protocol. The UK 2020 Act stipulates the Protocol will be enacted by Regulations made under the UK 2020 Act.

(8) During the transition period, nothing substantive changes for business or citizens, and the Brexit Law statutory instrument changes to UK domestic law are delayed until 1st Jan 2021.

Hence, subscribers existing EHS Legislation & Registers are relabelled Brexit Transition.

(9) From 1st Feb, the UK is free to make trade deals, these trade deals could alter domestic law.

(10) From 1st Jan 2021, the Brexit Law statutory instrument changes to UK domestic law have legal effect. These freeze UK domestic law implementation of EU law as at 31st Dec 2020. In practice, however, the vast bulk of the UK Brexit Law was enacted in March/April 2019, and so unless reissued, it reflects EU law at that date.

Some EU law will need implementing in 2020.

I wrote separate Blog posts about EU Law in UK 2020 and EU Law in UK 2021.

During 2020, please expect to see further Blog posts on this topic.

Stormont Re-Start (Northern Ireland)

Following acceptance by political parties in Northern Ireland of The New Decade, New Approach Deal, Stormont will re-start after three years.

This means restoration to full operation of all the institutions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, including the Executive, the Assembly, the North South Ministerial Council, the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The following commitments in The New Decade, New Approach Deal are relevant for our purposes –

(1) The Executive will create an Executive Sub-Committee on Brexit.

The sub-committee will be chaired by the First Minister and deputy First Minister (or their nominated Ministerial representatives). The sub-committee will have at least one representative from each party on the Executive. As a matter of urgency the sub-committee will consider Brexit-related issues and will initiate, as soon as is practicable, an assessment of the impact of Brexit on the institutions and North/South and East/West relationships. The work of the sub-committee will be scrutinised by an Assembly Committee.

(2) The Executive will establish a central Translation Hub in the Department of Finance within three months of an agreement, in order to provide language translation services for the 9 Executive Departments, Arm’s Length Bodies, Local Government and Public Bodies.

The Assembly’s Standing Orders will also be amended to allow any person to conduct their business before the Assembly or an Assembly Committee through Irish or Ulster Scots. A simultaneous translation system will be made available in the Assembly to ensure that a person without Irish or Ulster Scots is not placed at a disadvantage.

(3) Representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to be part of the UK delegation in any meetings of the UK-EU Specialised Committees or the Joint Committee discussing Northern Ireland specific matters which are also being attended by the Irish Government as part of the European Union’s delegation.

A powerful Joint Committee is established under the (international treaty) EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement to oversee that Agreement (for orderly UK exit from the EU). This Joint Committee will have Specialised Committees.

(4) The UK government will legislate to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market, and ensure that this legislation is in force for 1 January 2021. The UK government will engage in detail with a restored Executive on measures to protect and strengthen the UK internal market.

The Deal, alongside its two annexes, represents a possible outline of a Programme for Government. The parties agree to publish, within two weeks of the restoration of the institutions, the fuller details of an agreed Programme for Government. The parties recognise that the final Programme for Government will need to be agreed by the parties who form the Executive.

Within its first month of operation, the Executive will publish a legislative programme and indicative timescales which will complement the Programme for Government.

The following are relevant Deal commitments –

(1) The Executive will make its first priority to ensure the best possible Brexit outcome for citizens and the economy, reflecting the priorities set out in the letter of August 2016 from the First Minister and deputy First Minister to the Prime Minister.

(2) The Executive will invest urgently in wastewater infrastructure (the Living With Water Programme) which is at or nearing capacity in many places across Northern Ireland, including in Belfast.

(3) The Executive will tackle climate change with a new Energy Strategy to address the immediate and longer term impacts of climate change, and set targets and actions for transition to a zero carbon society.

The parties agree that, within 3 months, the new Executive will publish a comprehensive timetable for the development and delivery of this and other strategies necessary to achieve the outcomes in the Programme for Government.

(4) The Executive will introduce legislation and targets for reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Accord.

Specifically, –

* the Executive will bring forward a Climate Change Act

* the Executive will establish an independent Environmental Protection Agency

* the Executive will create a plan to eliminate plastic pollution

* the RHI (Renewable Heat Initiative) will be closed down and replaced by a scheme that cuts carbon emissions.

Please also note the statements made by the Irish Government which also summarises the Brexit supports available to border regions.

The Deal document is here.

New Ireland/Northern Ireland Trade Arrangements (UK Brexit)

* Exit day is 31st January 2020

* Withdrawal Treaty transition period end is 31st December 2020

The revised UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty is expected to be ratified shortly by the UK enacting the UK’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (currently in draft, known as the WAB). This will bring into force both the Exit day and the transition period.

The Withdrawal Treaty includes an Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of new trade arrangements that will apply to trade between the UK and the EU via the island of Ireland after the transition period.

* Ireland is an EU member state.

* Northern Ireland (NI) is part of the UK.

* The UK will be a third country vis a vis the EU after Exit day.

* The transition period stays (delays) the effect of Exit to give time for a trade deal to be put in place between the UK and the EU.

The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol makes a number of arrangements applicable to trade – that will apply after the transition period –

(1) Northern Ireland (NI) will operate inside the EU’s single market for industrial goods and agrifood, and comply with the EU’s Union Customs Code (whilst at the same time Norther Ireland will remain a legal part of the UK’s customs territory – the Protocol does not affect the UK customs territory).

(2) Goods entering NI from GB will be coming from a third country (the UK). Because those goods will be able to cross the land border into the EU’s single market, then customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory and agrifood checks will be required at the NI points of entry from GB: Warrenpoint, Belfast and Larne ports, and at airports – or more likely due to lack of infrastructure – at the GB ports of exit: Liverpool, etc, acting for the EU.

(3) Goods going in the opposite direction, Northern Ireland to GB, will require summary exit declarations under the EU’s Union Customs Code. The detail of this is not yet published.

(4) Beyond that, checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB will be up to the UK. It will have obligations under the WTO and may want to “protect” its own internal market from Irish-origin and therefore EU goods. In addition, new trade deals the UK agrees outside of the EU sphere may stipulate or necessitate the checking of some goods.

(5) Much depends on the detail of the new set-up –

Under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty , a specialised sub-committee, which forms part of the overall UK-EU Joint Committee to be created under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty to manage the new relationship between Britain and Europe, will agree certain aspects.

Note : the EU has acknowledged that Ireland will need to have a reserved seat – along with Spain and Cyprus, who have Protocols of their own on Gibraltar and the issue of the British military base on Cyprus in the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty – at the Joint Committee table.

The sub-committee will agree a list of goods and categories of goods which are only destined for, or will be consumed in, Northern Ireland – in other words, where there is no obvious risk they will cross the border and enter the single market.

(6) Goods from GB to NI (dealt with by this sub-committee) may be exempted from tariffs altogether, or where tariffs are paid and where the EU tariff is higher than the UK one, importers will be able to apply for a rebate.

(7) Live animals will be checked coming in to NI from GB (as they are now), and agrifood products GB to NI will also need to comply with EU food safety requirements.

(8) The new UK-EU trade deal itself will also affect the work of the Joint Committee specialised sub-committee – if the UK-EU trade deal results in zero tariffs and quotas, then that will largely remove the need for tariff exemptions and rebates on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland (traders would still have to do the paperwork to show that the consignments they are moving are actually tariff-free).

I will post further on this matter, when more information is available.