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Brexit: The Windsor Framework and what it means for businesses

UK and EU unveil Windsor Framework outlining major changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol

This week it was agreed between the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the European Commission that the Windsor Framework, an updated model under the Northern Ireland Protocol, will be enforced to simplify and secure post-Brexit cargo movements from the UK to Northern Ireland. It is likely that the new system will see a phased rollout beginning later in 2023 and continuing through 2024 for certain goods.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which was implemented in January 2021 as part of the Brexit policies, is a set of rules laid out to ensure checks of goods travelling from the UK to Northern Ireland are undertaken on arrival at Northern Irish ports to guarantee goods match the EU’s strict non-EU import criteria. Although the Northern Ireland Protocol was initially introduced to protect Northern Ireland’s trade with the UK and the EU, it has led to delays and additional costs for some businesses.

What is the Windsor Framework and why is it being introduced?

The Windsor Framework is being introduced under the Northern Ireland Protocol with the aim to reduce the amount of checks needed on goods travelling from the UK to Northern Ireland and secure the smooth flow of internal trade in the United Kingdom. The government has stated that the new framework will remove over 60 EU rules in relation to food and beverage imports into Northern Ireland that were included in the initial protocol.

How will the Windsor Framework work?

Rather than all imports being required to undertake the EU’s checks, even if the goods are destined to remain in Northern Ireland, the Windsor Framework will introduce two separate lanes for arrival into the country, the green lane and the red lane.

The green lane will be for goods that will remain in Northern Ireland and will see the extensive checks and paperwork removed from the process, with road freight movements only required to complete a single certificate.

The red lane, however, will cater for goods which may be destined to move on to the EU, including the Republic of Ireland. This lane will still be subject to the current EU checks and paperwork.

Furthermore, bans on some food products entering Northern Ireland, like chilled sausages, will be removed and some EU rules and regulations around the likes of VAT and alcohol duties will be removed in a phased rollout between now and the end of 2024.

Summary of key changes
announced by HM Government:

  • Windsor Framework being put in place to secure the smooth flow of internal UK trade by removing unnecessary red tape and checks for goods moving and remaining within the UK market. This includes the removal of export declarations between the UK and NI.
  • To provide a new basis for VAT and excise arrangements, including - but not restricted to - Northern Ireland’s ability to benefit from the UK-wide changes on alcohol duty and energy saving materials, the deal directly amends the scope of the old protocol text.
  • Northern Ireland to benefit from the same VAT, food and drink and medicines as the rest of the UK
  • 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 the 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.

To give businesses and individuals time to prepare, the implementation of the agreement will be phased in, with some of the new arrangements for goods, agrifood, pets and plant movements introduced later this year and the remainder in 2024. In the meantime, the current temporary standstill arrangements will continue to apply.

If you have any urgent questions regarding the Windsor Framework, reach out to our dedicated Brexit and Customs teams here:

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