The Windsor Framework announced to solve trade problems between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland (NI) following Brexit claims it will keep supply chains “deeply integrated”.
The framework, the result of negotiations between UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and president of the European Commission Ursula von de Leyen, proposes two lanes for goods travelling from the mainland to NI – a green one for goods destined to remain in NI and a red one for those travelling on to the Republic of Ireland.
Green lane goods will require no border checks, while those in the red lane will require checks as if they were entering the European Union.
“This agreement will ensure that Northern Ireland remains deeply integrated into the UK’s food supply chain and our associated regulations and court oversight,” it said.
Trade bodies have welcomed the deal, which would replace former prime minister Boris Johnson's NI Protocol, but it must be agreed by MPs in the House of Commons and parties in the NI Assembly.
Dominic Goudie, head of international trade for the Food and Drink Federation, told Supply Management: “Any deal to improve the movement of goods is welcome, after the significant uncertainty food and drink manufacturers have faced over the past two years.
“We look forward to seeing the details of this agreement, and how it will provide a pragmatic and business friendly solution that will ensure Northern Irish consumers can continue to enjoy the full choice of quality UK products, without facing higher prices.”
David Jinks, head of consumer research at delivery service Parcelhero, said: “[The deal] seems an eminently sensible solution.
“It's particularly pleasing that the new deal ends, once and for all, the threat that parcels sent from GB retailers and suppliers to NI customers would require a customs declaration.
“However, we fear that the UK-EU deal could still end up in the red lane, leaving British businesses still unable to sign off their 2023 sales campaigns for Northern Ireland.
“Prime minister Rishi Sunak now must get the deal past those Brexiters in his government ideologically opposed to any continuing role for the European Court of Justice, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which objects to any deal imposing restrictions between Britain and Northern Ireland.
“The time has come for politicians to put aside ideology in favour of getting trade moving. Continuing uncertainty and bureaucracy are creating huge headaches for retailers simply wishing to continue trading in this vital part of the UK market, and for exporters hoping for wider UK-EU trading reforms.”
Nichola Mallon, head of trade and devolved policy for Logistics UK, said: “Today’s announcement that an agreement has been reached is positive news for industry, and Logistics UK will now take time to work through the technical details with members.”
Under the framework, EU requirements for paperwork such as phytosanitary checks will not be required for internal traders under the UK Trader Scheme – assuming the company can prove their goods will stay in NI.
This system will be underpinned by the Trader Support Service, which draws on existing commercial data to avoid additional customs codes, tariffs, and supplementary declarations.
Bans on British products entering NI, such as sausages and other chilled meats, would be permanently scrapped, and it will treat goods going to NI as part of internal UK trade.
“[The new rules] protect the integrated supply chains on which many industries rely, wherever they sell their goods – including sectors critical to the Northern Ireland agrifood economy like dairy and meat processing, for whom any disruption would be deeply damaging,” the framework said.
The NI Protocol has been a contentious issue following Brexit, as it was put in place as a temporary measure in 2020 to protect the Belfast Agreement, which prevents a hard border on the island. Attempts to reach a deal between the UK and EU on NI have been unsuccessful previously.
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