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.

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.

Moving Goods from Ireland to Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is in a Statutory instrument)

[this Blog does not focus on Customs or VAT, this post is made only because the changes are substantive]

Today HMRC updated (in a major way) and reissued its guidance on customs procedures applying in Northern Ireland.

Here

Goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland will face different procedures compared to other UK-EU trade.

You will not need to:

• get a customs agent or an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number

• pay Customs Duty or make import or export declarations to HMRC

You should also consider advice issued by the Irish government about their requirements for goods moving into or out of Ireland.

This was the case in the March instructions (see Blog post then).

What is added is information about moving controlled and licensed goods, transitional simplified procedures and moving goods under transit.

HMRC also issued updated instructions on excise duty applying to exports to Ireland and imports from Ireland.

Export – here.

Import – here.

Customs and VAT processes in Northern Ireland will also change if there is an orderly exit. I will be issuing further Blog posts.