The Northern Ireland Protocol has been the source of acute political, economic and societal difficulties in the two years since it has been operating. The prospect of rigorous implementation of the Protocol has been regarded by communities and businesses in Northern Ireland as unworkable without lasting economic and political damage. The Protocol has already led to significant disruption in the links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that are integral to its place in our Union and the UK’s internal market.
The Government recognises that the unionist community has felt that their aspirations, identity and economic rights under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement have been undermined, with the sense that the East-West dimension of that Agreement has been downgraded. Concerns have been raised about the implications of these arrangements for democratic governance and Northern Ireland’s place in our Union, in line with the specific provisions of the Acts of Union and the Belfast (Good Friday) This has seen power-sharing collapse, and has undermined trade between Northern Ireland and what is by far its most important market.
As the sovereign Government in Northern Ireland, the UK Government has political and constitutional responsibilities under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement to address these concerns. As a co-signatory of the 1998 Agreement, the UK Government has an additional responsibility to give equal weight to all three strands supporting it. As such, the Government has intensively pursued the changes necessary to find new arrangements that safeguard the 1998 Agreement in all its parts, and uphold Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom.
These efforts, and the negotiations that have followed, have concluded with the new arrangements we set out in this Command Paper, which will apply in place of those in the original Protocol. This Windsor Framework (‘the agreement’) fundamentally amends the text and provisions of the original Protocol to uphold Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom, address the democratic deficit and set out a new way forward.
The agreement delivers a form of dual regulation that will work for business and consumers in Northern Ireland, based on the restoration of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market, and reflecting that by far the greatest portion of Northern Ireland’s economic life will continue to be based on trade within the United Kingdom. As a result over 1,700 pages of EU law – with accompanying European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction – are disapplied, meaning that core UK trade is based on core UK internal market rules, whether citizens and businesses are based in Belfast or Birmingham. This will ensure, for example, that the same UK food safety laws apply for retail goods moved into Northern Ireland; that VAT and excise rates apply UK-wide; and that medicines licensing will always be undertaken by the UK regulator for patients in Northern Ireland – without jeopardising access for Northern Ireland pharmaceutical firms to the EU market.
This agreement, and the unilateral commitments from the Government that also accompany it, protect the economic rights of the people of Northern Ireland and respect for the aspirations and identity of all communities, as is the responsibility of the sovereign Government under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
And it restores the delicate balance inherent in that Agreement, recognising the interlocking and interdependent nature of all three strands which the old Protocol had disturbed.
This agreement restores the balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement by fundamentally recasting arrangements in three key areas: restoring the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market by removing the burdens that have disrupted East-West trade; safeguarding Northern Ireland’s place in the Union by addressing practical problems affecting the availability of goods from GreatB ritain, and the ability of Northern Ireland to benefit from UK-wide tax and spend policies; and addressing the democratic deficit that was otherwise at the heart of the old Protocol.
To restore the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market, the new arrangements in this agreement set out concrete legal changes to remove red tape and checks for internal UK While goods going to the EU will remain subject to full EU law checks and controls, bespoke arrangements, under a new UK internal market scheme, will scrap all unnecessary red tape for internal UK movements – including burdensome ‘third country’ processes such as officially-signed certificates for individual food products and customs declarations for consumer parcels. In their place will be new data-sharing arrangements to monitor and manage risks, with internal UK traders able to move goods without tariffs, on the basis of ordinary commercial information, and without physical checks unless there is a specific risk or intelligence basis, such as to prevent smuggling or other criminality.
To safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the Union, the agreement provides legally binding, permanent solutions to a wide range of practical problems raised by citizens, businesses and politicians in Northern Ireland. Products that were banned – such as seed potatoes, sausages, and British trees – will move again easily. Onerous requirements on pet travel have been removed. Plants and seeds for garden centres will move using the same arrangements as they do elsewhere within the UK internal market. VAT on energy-saving materials, such as solar panels and heat pumps, will be cut and changes to alcohol duties later this year will now be able to apply UK-wide, including the new draught relief for beer in pubs. And the deal secures a UK-wide regime for the approval and supply of medicines, removing any role for the European Medicines Agency and ensuring that medicines are available at the same time and on the same basis right across the United Kingdom.
Most importantly, to address the democratic deficit the agreement marks a definitive break from the legal and political framework that underpinned the old Protocol, with treaty change that provides a new underpinning of democratic oversight in line with the principles of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. While the original Protocol ensured that any application of EU rules, and ECJ oversight, was subject to ongoing democratic consent, that was insufficient on its own to address concerns about the role of EU courts, as well as how to respect and protect the voice and interests of all communities in Northern Ireland. This agreement rectifies that by changing and rewriting the core dynamic alignment legal text as it stood in the old Protocol – entrenching democratic oversight and ending the prospect of damaging new goods rules being imposed on Northern Ireland.
A new Stormont Brake will apply to new or amended EU goods rules that would have a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of businesses and citizens – a trigger which will operate in line with the normal operation of cross-community safeguards in Northern Ireland, fully in line with the spirit and practice of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. And once pulled, that Brake will give the UK Government the sovereign power to veto the new EU rule from ever applying in Northern Ireland. That veto can only be challenged through independent arbitration mechanisms, not the ECJ – removing the ultimate authority of the ECJ in areas in which it would affect day-to-day lives. The result is that EU laws will apply only where strictly necessary to provide privileged access to the whole of the EU market under a new legal framework of democratic consent and control. And we will underpin this new framework through amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to provide constitutional and democratic guarantees for the people of Northern Ireland.
With this new agreement, the Government fully preserves its longstanding commitments to ensure Northern Ireland’s businesses have full unconditional and unfettered access to their most important market in Great Britain, while maintaining their privileged access to the whole of the EU market. But it also recognises the important responsibilities that come with that delicate balance, including the compromises made by the EU in respect to how it protects its internal market. Inherent in this new way forward is the prospect of significant divergence between the two distinct economies on the island of Ireland – from food and drink to plants and pets, building on the existing differences in every area of economic and political life such as services, migration, currency and taxation. This will require increased market surveillance North-South in some instances to ensure that there is no abuse of these arrangements to move goods across the international border from Northern Ireland into Ireland, and new requirements on Ireland and other EU Member States to ensure that sensitive products such as food are not moved illegally across that international border. The Government also recognises the separate responsibility to strengthen our own protections for the UK internal market – using the full remit of the Office for the Internal Market, and sharing trade data to ensure that it can monitor and provide assurance that future regulatory changes minimise trade diversion or the creation of new regulatory barriers within the UK internal market.
These are far-reaching, distinct and novel arrangements, establishing a new framework in place of that in the original Protocol and addressing the full range of issues it caused, safeguarding both economic and democratic principles in Northern Ireland. In so doing, for the first time this agreement involves the EU specifically disapplying rules fundamental to goods movements, and allowing future rules to be vetoed following the Stormont Brake, without disrupting internal UK trade or jeopardising access for Northern Ireland’s firms to the EU market.
Overall the agreement delivers on the core objectives that the Government set out previously in the Command Paper of July 2021 and the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in June 2022, such that it is no longer necessary to proceed with the Bill. In tandem, the EU will no longer proceed with the seven separate legal challenges it had brought against the UK in relation to the Protocol. These changes ensure that Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom is fully respected, as expressed through the Acts of Union and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in their modern
In total this package delivers on the promises of Brexit while preserving the hard-won gains of the past 25 years in Northern Ireland – bringing certainty and providing the basis for a more sustainable and prosperous road ahead for Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom.
The UK Government has long recognised the need to take account of Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances, and to protect all dimensions of the Belfast (Good Friday) That means avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and supporting North-South cooperation – including respecting the longstanding single epidemiological area on the island of Ireland and arrangements that existed long before Brexit. But crucially it also means upholding Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom and its internal market – on which so many lives and livelihoods depend – in line with the principle of consent.
However, this balance has been damaged through the Northern Ireland Protocol since it took effect in A hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland has been avoided. The EU Single Market has been protected. But there have been ongoing social, political and economic difficulties arising from its impact on
East-West trade, which is the principal arterial route of Northern Ireland’s economy. While Great Britain is Northern Ireland’s largest market by a distance, the flow and availability of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has been disrupted due to the application of EU customs and agrifood rules. Movements of plants, seed potatoes and other everyday goods have faced significant new costs or been banned entirely. These restrictions risked being significantly exacerbated by the prospect of ‘rigorous’ implementation. Even more fundamental frictions for the movement of pets, parcels and food have been avoided only through the application of a series of grace periods and easements – which have in turn been subject to legal challenges from the EU. There have been threats to the full availability of essential medicines. Overall the situation has led to deep uncertainty for businesses and citizens, contributing to an understandable sense of concern that the links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been undermined.
Over the last 18 months, therefore, the Government has sought to address these issues in a sustainable, comprehensive way that can fully preserve the balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement – seeking the basis for a productive future relationship between the UK and EU, working in partnership to deal with a range of global challenges. Despite a range of intensive technical discussions, and several periods of progress, those solutions proved But building on the careful work of negotiations in 2021 and 2022, sustained discussions over recent months have found the basis for a new way forward.
This new approach, set out in the Windsor Framework, restores the balance needed to uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its It puts in place a new legal and constitutional framework, changing the text of the treaty and scrapping a range of EU rules. The agreement:
- Restores the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market – by removing unnecessary red tape and checks for goods moving and remaining within the UK market;
- Safeguards Northern Ireland’s place in the Union – disapplying swathes of EU law and restoring UK rules in their place to fix everyday problems in areas from food safety and medicines supply to alcohol duty rules;
- Addresses the democratic deficit – enabling, through a new Stormont Brake, votes in Stormont to lead to a UK veto on new rules, embedded in new text at the heart of the treaty, to provide democratic oversight and cross-community safeguards in Northern Ireland.
- At the same time it fully preserves access for Northern Ireland businesses to the EU market, alongside their full unfettered access to the whole UK market, ensuring a unique set of opportunities for businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland. The agreement therefore provides a new basis for future stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland, as we look ahead to the 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday)
The Windsor Framework
Alongside this Command Paper we have published the full range of legal texts that underpin this new These solutions put arrangements in Northern Ireland on an entirely new footing, with far-reaching changes to the old Protocol to provide lasting certainty and stability for citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland. Consequently the Protocol is put into a new legal and constitutional framework, in place of the previous arrangements and the underlying issues they caused.
This includes a series of changes to the treaty itself, in line with what the Government has consistently argued is the only way to deal with the issues caused by the old Protocol, and which many people had said could not be delivered:
- To secure the smooth flow of internal UK trade, we have inserted new text into Article 6(2) of the Protocol to lock in a commitment by both sides to establish and maintain specific arrangements for internal UK trade – which is subject to arbitration, rather than the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
- To provide a new basis for VAT and excise arrangements, including – but not restricted to – Northern Ireland’s ability to benefit from UK-wide changes on alcohol duty and energy-saving materials, the deal directly amends the scope of the old Protocol text.
- And to redress the democratic deficit, the Stormont Brake is embedded at the heart of the treaty, reopening and rewriting the dynamic alignment provision in Article 13, so that it provides a firm guarantee of democratic oversight, and a sovereign veto for the United Kingdom on damaging new goods rules.
Alongside those treaty amendments are a range of other legally binding changes to establish this new agreement. These include amendments to core areas of EU law on goods movements and agrifood; legally binding Joint Committee Decisions to put in place elements of the new green lane and make the treaty changes above; and further declarations by the UK and EU, with effect in international law, to entrench unfettered access and other important Together these remove more than 1,700 pages of EU rules and restore UK rules in their place. They scrap the application of EU rules fundamental to the regulation of goods movements to restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market. They allow future rules to be vetoed through the Stormont Brake. And they do so without disrupting East-West trade or jeopardising access for Northern Ireland firms to the EU market.
RESTORING THE SMOOTH FLOW OF TRADE WITHIN THE UK INTERNAL MARKET
One of the principal problems with the original Protocol was its treatment of the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. While it provided a framework within which goods could move tariff-free, otherwise they were treated as if moving across an international border. For customs purposes, this meant the full requirement for multiple declarations, checks and in some cases rules of origin requirements. On agrifood, each individual product required costly, officially-signed and highly detailed certificates, and extensive checks, with associated delays and
The agreement puts in place a full set of new arrangements, through a new UK internal market system (or green lane) for internal trade. This will mean that goods being sold in Northern Ireland will be freed of unnecessary paperwork, checks and duties, using only ordinary commercial information rather than customs processes or complex certification requirements for In contrast, trade moving into the EU will be subject to normal third country processes and requirements. These new arrangements will be underpinned by new data-sharing arrangements, using commercial data and technology to monitor trade flows, rather than relying on international customs procedures that were inappropriate for UK internal market movements. In the process we have removed the border in the Irish Sea for internal UK trade, protecting Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market.
The application of EU rules in Northern Ireland
The old Protocol applied a range of EU goods rules in order to avoid a hard border and provide access to the EU market. It did so subject to ongoing democratic consent for those arrangements, which was the basis on which the Government signed, and Parliament ratified, the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement. That already stripped EU rules from a series of key areas: with the full freedom to regulate for the services industries of the future; to control United Kingdom waters; to remain outside of the Common Agricultural Policy permanently; and to avoid alignment on social, broader environmental, consumer or competition law
But as has been demonstrated in practice, the Protocol has failed to balance all aspects of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, leading to a disproportionate set of burdens that impacted on Northern Ireland’s role within the UK internal market. That was not the basis from which any unique arrangements in Northern Ireland could command broad support from right across the community. With the agreement we have upheld Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and stopped damaging new goods rules being imposed on Northern Ireland with no say:
It removes 1,700 pages of EU law, and takes with it any ECJ interpretation and oversight in those areas. That includes the new legal framework we have secured for agrifood retail trade moving into Northern Ireland; on the supply of medicines across the UK; and the new freedoms to set VAT and excise It is now for the UK to decide, and for UK courts to interpret, the rules in those areas.
It establishes unique new arrangements on goods movements to protect internal UK trade – removing unnecessary EU red tape and the oversight over it – with change to the text of the treaty itself to underpin both sides’ commitment to them.
It therefore narrows the range of EU rules applicable in Northern Ireland – to less than 3% overall by the EU’s own calculations. The rules that do apply are there solely, and only as strictly necessary, in order to maintain the unique ability for Northern Ireland firms to sell their goods into the EU
Critically, those rules apply only for as long as those arrangements command democratic consent in Northern Ireland. And as we set out below, we have also introduced a further safeguard of democratic control through the Stormont Brake.
In the much more limited circumstances in which EU rules do continue to apply, both the UK and EU are clear that we should look to use political routes to seek to resolve issues before restoring to formal dispute settlement.
Both the UK and EU have been clear in the Political Declaration accompanying the agreement that the Protocol, as amended, will be subject to the general principles of public international law as set out under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This underlines that the fundamental underpinning of this arrangement is in international law, not EU law and the EU institutions.
And none of these provisions will get in the way of the United Kingdom continuing to be able to strike new Free Trade Agreements with third countries, including ongoing discussions for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
In order to maintain maximum market access for Northern Ireland traders, those rules which do apply on goods are applied to goods produced in Northern Ireland. But this reflects what we have heard time and again is the balance businesses want in order to prosper:
- First and most importantly, companies producing for their most important market in Great Britain will retain completely unfettered That means a permanent guarantee of being able to place goods on the UK market in all scenarios – meaning no forms, checks, controls, or tariffs, or any barriers to the market whatsoever, whatever the future form of regulations.
- Secondly, there are many areas of goods rules within the scope of the old Protocol where no international or EU standards apply – in retail sectors like jewellery, clothes, homeware, footwear and furniture, covering a quarter of Northern Ireland manufacturers. In those cases UK national rules set the standards for goods on the market in Northern Ireland.That means across significant sectors of Northern Ireland’s economy, businesses already make goods to the same standards whether in Carlisle or Craigavon, and that will continue under this deal.
- Thirdly, elsewhere in manufacturing, it is international standards which apply in practice, with commitments from the UK and EU in the TCA to maintain them. Indeed of the nearly 3,600 international goods standards in place, there are differences between the UK and EU in only 11 of them (0.3% of standards overall). These reflect minor differences in practice, where the UK has applied higher standards (which Northern Ireland traders can still choose to meet).
- Fourthly, in agrifood, the rules in place reflect longstanding arrangements. They 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. But through this agreement they now do so within a dual regime – with retail trade into Northern Ireland able to use UK food safety standards and flow smoothly; Northern Ireland farmers outside of the Common Agricultural Policy; and the Northern Ireland Executive given the flexibility to decide its own approach locally on agricultural subsidies.
- This dual regime is also consistent with existing devolution arrangements, which mean it is entirely possible constitutionally to have different standards across the UK. Those differences are accommodated through the market access principle in the UK Internal Market Act 2020, enabling goods made in one market to be sold in another, even if rules differ across the different nations. That principle will be protected and strengthened under this deal – if England, for example, changed food health standards in relation to a particular product, then that product could be sold in shops in Wales,Scotland and Northern Ireland. And if the Northern Ireland Assembly chose to adopt a new EU regulation on food health standards – in line with the new democratic safeguards written into the treaty as set out below – then producers could still sell that good across the UK because of the unfettered access guarantees that UK law already secures.
This is a pragmatic form of dual-regulation – resolving real-world barriers, and recognising UK standards in critical areas like agrifood retail trade and medicines supplies; while protecting the market access, and longstanding arrangements, of Northern Ireland That restores the balance we have always been clear needs to be at the heart of any settlement, and remains subject to the fundamentally important principle that must underpin any arrangements for Northern Ireland: democratic consent, as provided for in the old Protocol.
The Stormont Brake
We recognise, however, that the consent mechanism is not sufficient in and of itself to tackle the democratic deficit challenge in Northern Ireland, or to provide an answer to how to build support that is as broad across the community as possible. The consent vote happens only every four or eight years, and cannot by its nature provide for democratic oversight of individual laws. The vote also operates on the basis of a majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the Northern Ireland Assembly, relying on the votes cast by a majority of people in Northern Ireland in the most recent electoral Whilst this democratic basis is entirely consistent with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the Government recognises that there is an unanswered question about how to provide a say to MLAs in a scenario in which a cross-community consensus has not been achieved.The consent mechanism is clear that our objective is to achieve as broad a consensus across all communities as is possible.
To address these key challenges, the new agreement establishes a powerful new democratic safeguard – a Stormont Brake – rooted in the principles of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, where those goods rules applied in Northern Ireland are amended or replaced. Under the Protocol as it stands, those rules are applied automatically under Article 13(3). But the Stormont Brake will change that, giving the institutions, once restored, a genuine and powerful role in the decision on whether or not significant new goods rules impacting on everyday life in Northern Ireland should apply. This is more than simply a say in the rules that are made: the Brake would enable a sovereign UK Government decision to veto the application of a new rule – and the accompanying ECJ interpretation and oversight – to Northern Ireland permanently.
The Stormont Brake will apply to changes to EU customs, goods, and agriculture rules within the scope of the original Protocol, with a specific process to follow to trigger it:
- When the institutions are restored, the trigger for the Brake will operate on the same basis as a separate ‘Petition of Concern’ within the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, as updated by the New Decade, New Approach Agreement in 2020, allowing a concern to be raised based on 30 MLAs from two or more parties coming together to sign a petition.
- The UK Government will consult with the local parties to ensure that a proper scrutiny process is established for a restored Assembly, with support from the UK Government, and MLAs operating a structured process to consider the potential impacts and their response. We will consult with the parties in Northern Ireland on how to codify domestically this defined process of scrutiny, consultation with businesses and others affected by the EU act in question, as well as providing time to identify any other routes to resolution, ensuring that the Brake is only deployed as the last mechanism available to deal with the concerns.
- The Brake will not be available for trivial reasons: there must be something ‘significantly’ different about a new rule, whether in its content or scope, and MLAs will need to show that the rule has a ‘significant impact specific to everyday life’ that is liable to persist.
- The Brake will be available to MLAs to apply to specific elements of new goods rules changes or to the entirety of a new law. Even if only a limited part of an EU Directive or Regulation is changed, the Brake can still be used if the new content of the rules are significant and the impact will be damaging.
Once the UK notifies the EU that the Brake has been triggered, the rule in question is suspended automatically from coming into effect. It can then only be subsequently applied in Northern Ireland if the UK and EU both agree to that jointly in the Joint Committee. This would give the UK an unequivocal veto – enabling the rule to be permanently disapplied – within the Joint Committee. This new safeguard in the treaty is not subject to ECJ oversight, and any dispute on this issue would be resolved through subsequent independent arbitration according to international, not EU, law.
This provides a permanent, cross-community based safeguard in the treaty to address the democratic deficit. This goes beyond the arrangements set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which applied permanent dynamic EU law alignment to all ‘red lane’ trade at risk of entering the EU. While that would have maintained access for firms accessing the EU market, it would have left no democratic safeguard available to the institutions in Northern Ireland or indeed to the UK Government for those The regime in the Bill would have therefore left ongoing risks to the integrity of the UK internal market, given that these procedures and checks are being applied at Northern Ireland ports and many Northern Ireland-based businesses would choose to use this route to provide flexibility on where they subsequently sent goods. This agreement goes further: any rule in scope can be subject to permanent disapplication in Northern Ireland where the conditions are met.
The Government recognises that, in addition to triggering the Brake initially and ensuring the potential application of a new rule is suspended, MLAs in Stormont will want to ensure that their concerns are reflected in the subsequent decision taken by the UK Government in the UK-EU Joint Committee on whether to permanently veto the new law. We will legislate for new statutory provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to codify protections for this scenario. We will, of course, discuss our new legislative proposals with the political parties in Northern Ireland. The Government’s proposal, for discussion with the parties, is that a rule could not be added to the new Agreement in the absence of a cross-community vote in support from the Northern Ireland Assembly, unless the Government could demonstrate that there were exceptional circumstances to justify it, or show that the measure would not lead to new regulatory borders between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is important to note that the permanent disapplication of the rules would mean divergence between Northern Ireland and Ireland (and the broader EU), and thus it would be a matter for the EU how to deal with the consequent impact on their market. Recognising this, the EU will have the ability to take ‘appropriate remedial measures’.
The role of Stormont on proposed new areas of law
Through the Stormont Brake, rules otherwise applied automatically under Article 13(3) would be subject to a UK-EU Joint Committee decision before they could apply in Northern That 13(3) process applies to rules that are already within scope of the Protocol that are amended or updated. There is also, though, an existing process – under Article 13(4) of the Protocol – where the EU proposes to add new rules into the Protocol. In those cases, it is already a sovereign decision of the United Kingdom, through the UK-EU Joint Committee, whether the rule in question should apply in Northern Ireland.
We recognise, though, that the Northern Ireland Assembly would potentially have just as strong a set of views on those new rules as those covered by the Brake, not least as they could expand the scope of where EU rules apply in Northern Ireland. In bringing forward this agreement we are also committed to providing a proper say for Stormont there As such, the proposal that we will put forward for discussion with the parties in Northern Ireland is that the Government would commit to the same constraints, in statute, as proposed under the Stormont Brake.
As there, this would mean that the Government would not be able to proceed to add any new rule under Article 13(4) without cross-community support, unless the Government could demonstrate that there were exceptional circumstances or confirm that the new measure would not create new regulatory borders between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This will provide a further democratic safeguard for the restored Northern Ireland institutions.
New structures for UK-EU cooperation
As well as these new safeguards for the Northern Ireland institutions, the agreement builds out joint UK-EU structures further to anticipate and deal with any other issues that may emerge.
We have agreed to establish new mechanisms for stakeholder engagement within those structures, including business and civic society groups, to ensure their expertise and insight can inform discussions about how the agreement operates in practice.
We have established new structured expert groups to allow detailed UK-EU discussion of new rules applied under the Protocol across the full range of issues, including on goods regulation, the Single Electricity Market, customs, agrifood and subsidy control – with new commitments to engage earlier and more intensively to look at the implications of new rules.
And we have developed specific new mechanisms to look at the potential impacts on the UK internal market of new goods, VAT and excise rules in particular, enabling the Joint Committee to take forward any action as necessary.
In addition, the UK reaffirms its guarantee that the First and deputy First Minister will have a seat at the table in the UK delegation for any UK-EU Joint Committee meetings which consider matters concerning Northern Ireland – a key request from across the Northern Ireland political
Both the UK and EU have also jointly declared that they will make full use of these UK-EU structures to deal with issues in operating the agreement. This underscores the shared commitment, as part of this new way forward overall, to resolve issues with the operation of the Protocol through dialogue, rather than hair-trigger recourse to formal dispute proceedings.
Safeguarding Northern Ireland’s place in the Union in all respects
Taken as a whole, through this agreement we have put the arrangements for Northern Ireland on an entirely new footing: removing the barriers and burdens that gave rise to the perception of an Irish Sea border, and protecting those arrangements from being removed by the ECJ; protecting Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market now and in the future; scrapping swathes of EU rules to support UK-wide policymaking in key areas of food safety, medicines, taxation and spending; and addressing the democratic deficit that was otherwise at the heart of issues with the original Protocol. In so doing this agreement puts beyond doubt Northern Ireland’s place in our precious Union, consistent with the Acts of Union and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
And recognising the concerns that have been raised by the imbalance of the old Protocol, the Government commits to enshrining in domestic law the democratic and constitutional protections set out in this agreement, reflecting Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom and the full restoration of Northern Ireland’s place in our internal market.
We have set out above the instruments that make up this package overall. These will be approved at the next meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee, which we expect to take place next month. After that, the UK and EU will respectively take forward legislative measures to translate the solutions into law in both legal orders, providing the basis for these new arrangements to enter into force.
Elsewhere, we will set out further detail, including through guidance to traders, on the forward pathway for these changes to take effect. Some will take effect immediately or once the relevant legislation is in force. Others will require further changes to UK systems or joint work with the EU to provide the necessary underpinning for them to take effect. This will be set out further over the coming weeks, and in particular once the package has been agreed by both sides at a forthcoming Joint In the meantime we will work with business groups, traders and other operators to set out more detail on these arrangements; help prepare for the changes ahead; and ensure that we have provided clarity and certainty to businesses and citizens on the way forward following this agreement.
Following this deal the Government and the EU are both firmly committed to a positive, constructive relationship as partners. It is in both our interests to resolve and move past concerns with the Protocol, to focus instead on our shared priorities in Europe and on the global stage. With the Windsor Framework, the UK and EU have found a sustainable basis on which we can consider those concerns to have been addressed. The Government will therefore not be proceeding with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. In turn, the EU will not proceed with the seven separate legal actions it has launched against the United Kingdom – on issues from parcels to pets – reflecting the shared desire for a positive bilateral relationship now and into the future.