The UK and EU deal to reduce red tape on post-Brexit trade has improved the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, according to a report published by the House of Lords committee on the protocol. The report examines the economic, political, legal, and constitutional impact of the Windsor Framework deal reached by London and Brussels earlier this year.
The Windsor Framework aimed to streamline trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by creating red and green lanes for goods destined for each region. It also introduced a mechanism for Stormont MLAs to raise concerns about the implementation of new EU laws in Northern Ireland, potentially allowing the UK government to veto their introduction.
While the framework has resulted in eased movement of various goods, including retail goods, agri-food produce, parcels, pets, and human medicines, the report cautions that some businesses may find the processes more burdensome compared to the current implementation of the protocol. The committee highlights concerns raised by businesses and retailers regarding the movement of livestock, labelling requirements, and the need for further clarity and support from the government in adapting to the changes.
The report also notes confusion and lack of clarity surrounding the provisions of the framework, emphasizing the need for London and Brussels to explain clearly to stakeholders what the provisions mean in practice and to publish a comprehensive summary. Regulatory divergence is identified as a significant concern for businesses, with fears that Northern Ireland may be caught between Great Britain and the EU, jeopardizing the competitiveness of Northern Ireland firms and their supply chains.
The committee expresses concerns regarding the movement of veterinary medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and the potential discontinuation of more than 50% of veterinary medicines, posing risks to animal and human health as well as agri-food supply chains. It also calls for clarity on labelling requirements, safety features, and concerns about slower access to cutting-edge medical products for Northern Ireland.
Lord Jay of Ewelme, chair of the committee, describes the Windsor Framework as a “distinct improvement” on the original protocol but acknowledges that it does not solve all the problems raised by the protocol. He emphasizes the need for clarity, close communication between the government and the EU, and active engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders.
Retail NI, a trade representative body, welcomes the report and agrees with its main recommendation that the Windsor accord is an improvement on the NI Protocol. The organization calls for more structured engagement with the local business sector, the EU, and the UK government to address the challenges and opportunities posed by the implementation of the Windsor accord.