Windsor Framework proposed to alleviate NI Protocol issues

The Northern Ireland Protocol has been controversial every since it’s introduction during the Brexit negotiations, and has created several economic and political problems for Northern Ireland. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen have proposed another solution to the problem. Find out more about the the “Windsor framework” in this article.

What problems has the NI Protocol created? 

Northern Ireland is within the United Kingdom, yet the NI Protocol means that the customs territory lies within the European Union in practice. This has limited the supply of goods from the mainline UK to Northern Ireland as an 
import clearance now needs to be completed to EU standards.

The additional confusion, hassle, and costs have resulted in reduced availability in Northern Ireland, including in two essential areas: food and healthcare.

Food products moving from mainland UK to Northern Ireland now need to conform to the European Unions standards. This means that chilled meats, such as sausages and burgers, are now unable to be imported into Northern Ireland. Additionally, all goods that are allowed must have the correct health documentation and checks to ascertain that the goods are produced to the correct standard. 

This has put off mainland UK suppliers, who can send their produce to the rest of the UK without the additional concerns of customs clearance. There is also the demand for goods elsewhere due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Healthcare is another major concern for providers in Northern Ireland, who cannot move medicines into the country without similar red tape. Drugs that are produced and allowed in the UK need to have the same paperwork for moving stock into Northern Ireland as they do when being transported into the European Union.

Finally, the NI Protocol is seen to undermine the Acts of Union by effectively isolating Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. This has rekindled some political unrest within the region, and the DUP (a governmental party) have refused to form an assembly until the issues with the NI Protocol are resolved.

Trade in Northern Ireland is governed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the European Union as a whole. Therefore, amendments in trade agreements takes time and much negotiation.

How will the Windsor framework correct issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol? 

The Windsor framework seeks to streamline the issues of trade between the UK, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland by changing some restrictions to make them more practical. Following several meeting between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen have presented the Windsor framework to the DUP for review.

Here are some of the key points from the Windsor framework:

The Windsor framework will separate trade within Northern Ireland and trade with the EU

A concern of businesses  within Northern Ireland is that they are not trading with the Republic of Ireland, but are obligated to complete customs declarations as if they were. The Windsor agreement allows a business to declare their goods for the “green lane” if the goods are to remain within Northern Ireland, or the “red lane” if the goods are destined to move to the Republic of Ireland. Green lane movements will attract less red tape so that they can be processed easier.

Medicines and food will be allowed to move into Northern Ireland easier under the green lane

If the goods meet UK standards, then they will be allowed to cross into Northern Ireland with less checks. It is hoped this will address the shortage of medicines and food within the region.

The Windsor Agreement gives back control of tax rates to the UK

Any changes to UK VAT and excise rates will be applicable for goods that are destined for Northern Ireland.

The Stormont brake gives Northern Ireland Assembly the power to veto new EU legislation

Building on a mechanism within the Belfast Agreement called the Petition of Concern, the Stormont brake allows the Northern Ireland assembly to block the application of new European laws if it does not serve the community. However, it has been stressed that this is an emergency process, and the European Court will have the final say on all matters regarding the single market. To activate the Stormont brake, 30 or more members of the assembly must vote to do so.

What’s next for the Windsor framework?

The DUP are considering the proposal with their legal counsel, and will give their verdict on the Windsor framework as soon as they have finished their review. Once passed, official dates will be provided for the changes. If you would like help with your Northern Ireland movements, contact us for more information.


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