UK government lays out proposals for future management of Northern Ireland Protocol

Food distribution depot, food supply warehouse

On 21 July 2021, the UK government set out new proposals to help resolve the current difficulties arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol, primarily for the movement of goods from Great Britain to NI.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP), EU customs and SPS rules apply to goods moving from Great Britain (GB) into Northern Ireland (NI). This is to protect the peace process on the island of Ireland, preventing the need for the hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).

These requirements, however, have created significant new frictions for the movement of goods, particularly agri-food products, which must meet certification and inspection requirements. Furthermore, some products face future prohibitions when current grace periods for chilled processed meats or easements for plants for planting come to an end. Other products, such as seed potatoes, are already prohibited from entering NI from GB.

UK government calls for new provisions

Under the UK government’s proposals, there would need to be significant work to agree new provisions for implementing the NIP. These could include changes to the requirements, so that only goods intended to move into the EU’s Single Market would need to meet the EU’s customs and SPS requirements, with some specific exemptions for high-risk goods, such as live animals or some plants and plant products.

This would be enforced by reciprocal market surveillance and data sharing, enforcement measures, trader transparency and possible other measures, such as labelling requirements or SPS agreements.

Standstill on grace periods requested

In order to give sufficient time to agree these new provisions, the UK government is calling for a ‘standstill’ on current grace periods and ‘freeze’ on legal action.

The EU has acknowledged the UK’s proposals and expresses a desire to continue to work to reach creative solutions under the provisions of the NIP, but stated it would not renegotiate the agreement.