Northern Ireland 100 Years (Northern Ireland)

Today (3rd May 2021) is the centenary of the political entity known as “Northern Ireland”, and 100 years from the date of connected customs and other border controls.

The UK House of Commons Library published today a briefing paper on the origins and development of the Northern Ireland borders. This paper is here.

Key points are set out below –

(1) Claims by England over the island of Ireland and its peoples date from the 12C.

(2) The Government of Ireland Act 1920 (UK) – Royal Assent on 23 December 1920, created devolved parliaments in “Northern Ireland” and “Southern Ireland”. An administrative boundary was to divide the two.

(3) The separate parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland were given legal basis (UK) by Order in Council under the 1920 Act on 3 May 1921 (hence 100 years as respects Northern Ireland).

(4) The Anglo-Irish Treaty signed 6 December 1921, allowed Northern Ireland to “opt out” of coming under the jurisdiction of the declared Irish Free State (Ireland), which it did on 7 December 1922. This triggered a Boundary Commission, which was to revise the boundary between NI and the Free State.

(5) In the interim, a customs frontier was erected along the Northern Ireland/Free State border on 1 April 1923. This “hardened” the boundary for the first time. Cross-border roads were identified as “approved” or “unapproved”; duties were payable on many commercial goods.

(6) The Tripartite Boundary Agreement of 3 December 1925 confirms the existing border.

(7) The 1937 Constitution (Ireland) formally renames the ‘Southern Ireland’ state Ireland.

(8) 26 counties of Ireland explicitly become a Republic under the terms of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 (Ireland), definitively ending membership of the British Commonwealth on 18 April 1949, further strengthening the border as an international frontier. The Ireland Act 1949 (UK) subsequently confirms that the “consent” of the NI Parliament is required to end or alter partition.

(9) When the IRA launch “Operation Harvest” in 1956, the border is “securitised” for the first time, with “unapproved” routes cratered or spiked. This happens again in August 1970 as a response to “The Troubles”:

(10) Both Ireland and the UK accede to the then European Economic Community on 1 January 1973. As a result, the border between the two becomes softer, but customs checks remain in place, as does the Common Travel Area (that exists between the UK and Ireland).

(11) Following the Single European Act of 1986, customs checks cease at what the UK HM Customs & Excise call the “Northern Ireland Land Boundary” at midnight on 31 December 1992. Only the border’s security aspects remain.

(12) The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is endorsed in a referendum (Northern Ireland) on 22 May 1998. A referendum is also held on the same day in Ireland. Although the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement does not explicitly rule out a “hard” border in Ireland, it does commit the UK Government to removing security installations.

(13) On 1 January 2021 the Northern Ireland Protocol (under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement) comes into effect. This avoids “customs and regulatory checks or controls and related physical infrastructure at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland” by creating an “Irish Sea border”.

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland remains aligned to a number of European Union rules, as set out in the Protocol’s Annexes. These include the Union Customs Code and the Official Controls Regulation on food and animal products. As a result, traders moving most commercial goods from Britain to Northern Ireland (but not from Northern Ireland to Britain) are required to meet certain customs requirements and – in the case of products of plant or animal origin – various Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) requirements.

To do this, traders are required to make customs declarations, and in some cases pay tariffs. Traders must also provide Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for agri-food goods. These documents, and the goods themselves, may also be subject to checks. The UK-EU Joint Committee (provided for by the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement) has (to date) agreed a number of exceptions whereby these requirements could be reduced for certain authorised traders: for example, the so- called “grace periods” during which supermarkets and their suppliers are permitted to move food products into Northern Ireland without an EHC, provided certain other conditions are met.

Under the terms of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, the 90 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have the periodic power (after 31 December 2024) to decide whether to terminate or continue the Protocol arrangements. If the former, then the Joint Committee is obliged to make alternative proposals to the UK and EU in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

UK updates to Northern Ireland Protocol (Northern Ireland)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced (unilateral) via written ministerial statement today the following –

For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on 24 February, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland (STAMNI) will continue until 1 October. Certification requirements will then be introduced in phases alongside the roll out of the Digital Assistance Scheme.

In addition, further guidance will be provided later this week on parcel movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to provide necessary additional time for traders beyond 1 April. Guidance will also be set out to help address practical problems on soil attached to the movement of plants, seeds, bulbs, vegetables and agricultural machinery. And the Government will write to the Northern Ireland Executive to confirm that flexibilities within the Official Controls Regulation 2017/625 are such that no charging regime is required for agri-food goods.

The ministerial statement is here.

UK relations with EU (UK)

The UK government has brought back Lord (David) Frost, its EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) negotiator, to lead UK relations with the EU as a Cabinet Minister (scrutinised by Lords select committee). He will be the UK lead (co-chair with the EU) of the two key committees (replacing Michael Gove CDL) –

(1) The Joint Committee of the 2020 EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (WA) – a key workload is the IRL/NI Protocol functioning

(2) The Partnership Council set up under the 2020 TCA

These two images depict the TCA work ongoing. The various committees and sub-committees of the Partnership Council are not yet announced.

EU CLP and GB CLP (UK from 1st Jan)

I mentioned GB CLP yesterday in my blog about publication of the new rules for Northern Ireland.

From 1 January 2021, the European Union (EU) CLP Regulation will be replaced in Britain by retained EU law – the GB CLP Regulation. The GB CLP Regulation will be added to Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists, and is included in our Brexit Consolidated Law project (the coloured list).

Businesses based in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) that place chemicals (substances and mixtures) on the GB market will comply with the GB CLP Regulation (not the EU CLP Regulation) from 1st January.

GB CLP Agency

GB-based businesses supplying the GB market with chemicals (substances and mixtures) will deal with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the GB CLP Agency instead of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

GB Notification

GB-based businesses will notify the GB CLP Agency (not ECHA) of the classification and labelling of the substances they place on the GB market, whether on their own or in mixtures, where they meet the criteria for notification (please check that notification is not required if the substance is subject to UK REACH registration).

GB mandatory classification and labelling (GB MCL)

GB-based businesses will classify and label their substances, where required, in accordance with GB MCL and with the entries in the GB MCL list hosted and managed by the GB CLP Agency.

Downstream users and distributors supplied from the EU/ European Economic Area (EEA)

GB-based downstream users or distributors supplied from the EU/EEA will be importers after 31st December if these supply arrangements continue. 

Exporting to the EU/EEA

Responsibility for the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals exported to the EU/EEA from Britain will rest with the EU/EEA-based importer.

Unchanged from 1st Jan 2021 –

The main duties on GB-based businesses i.e. manufacturers, importers, downstream users and distributors (“suppliers”) to classify, label and package the chemicals (substances and mixtures) they place on the market under the GB CLP Regulation will stay the same.

Classification

From January 2021, GB-based manufacturers, importers and downstream users will still classify substances and mixtures) i.e. identify any hazardous properties, before they place them on the GB market.

Labelling

Manufacturers, importers, downstream users and distributors based in Britain will still label substances and mixtures to reflect their hazard classification before they place them on the GB market.

There are no changes to requirements for when GB CLP Regulation labelling appears alongside those for transport (dangerous good transport).

Packaging

There are no changes to packaging requirements. Substances and mixtures placed on the GB market must still be safely and securely packaged. Requirements for child resistant closures and tactile warning devices will remain in place.

Responsibility to identify health, environmental and physical hazards 

All suppliers based in Britain will continue to be responsible for identifying, examining and evaluating available scientific and information on substances and mixtures relating to possible physical, health or environmental hazardous properties of chemicals. This is to ensure all the requirements of classification, labelling and packaging are fulfilled.

Testing arrangements 

Testing arrangements for chemicals, including a ban on testing on humans or primates for the purposes of the GB CLP Regulation, will still apply.

Relationship with UN GHS

The GB CLP Regulation, as retained EU law, will continue to adopt changes to the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals (UN GHS) in a similar way to the EU CLP Regulation.

Northern Ireland- based Businesses

The EU CLP Regulation will apply in Northern Ireland. This will mean that:

* chemicals (substances or mixtures) placed on the market in Northern Ireland will comply with the EU CLP Regulation (not the GB CLP Regulation)

* Northern Ireland- based businesses will notify ECHA (not the HSE) of the hazard classification and labelling of the substances they place on the NI market, for inclusion in the EU Classification and Labelling Inventory, whether on their own or in mixtures, where they meet the criteria for notification (notification is not required if the substance is subject to EU REACH registration)

* Northern Ireland-based downstream users and distributors who are currently supplied by businesses in the EU/EEA will not face any new EU CLP Regulation requirements if these supply arrangements continue (GB businesses will be importers – see above)

Responsibility for the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals traded from Britain to Northern Ireland will rest with the Northern Ireland based business who places the chemical on the Northern Ireland market even if it is currently a downstream user or distributor.

NI- based businesses placing goods on the GB market must study the new Rules for Northern Ireland published yesterday. Please note the relevant clauses of the Internal Market Bill are dropped (and the HSE Guidance is not yet updated).

Link to HSE.

Northern Ireland (& separately CLP) (from 1 Jan 2021)

The UK government tonight published its details for the new arrangements that will apply in Northern Ireland re NI goods trade with Britain and with the EU – here.

This has also clarified some issues re trade across the UK and the EU, including re the new GB CLP that will replace the European Union (EU) CLP Regulation in Britain. Note, British mandatory classification and labelling (GB MCL) will replace the EU harmonised classification and labelling system in Britain (not Northern Ireland. Also, references to the Internal Market Bill on the HSE web pages (on both GB and NI CLP) are now out of date.

The EU CLP will continue to apply in Northern Ireland.

We will update the Brexit Consolidated Law List, to add the GB CLP in the middle section. This will show Orange as a work in progress. Those of you who have asked for CLP to be included in the Brexit Consolidated Law List, will receive an email.

We will update the Brexit Guidance List, to add and update the links for the new NI Guidance applying from 1 Jan 2021, some of this exists as date updates to existing NI links in this List.

These Lists are found in Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklist, and are talked about in the monthly Email Alerts.

We strongly advise getting to grips with the guidance links in the Brexit Guidance List.

Trader Support Service (Northern Ireland)

HMRC today advises the Trader Support Service is now available to be signed up to.

The Trader Support Service is established to assist persons moving goods between GB and Northern Ireland.

The Sign Up is here (on the Trader Support Service website).

The HMRC announcement is here.

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.

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.