Brexit, The Northern Ireland Protocol & The Windsor Framework

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Robert Brothers - Senior Associate

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Brexit & The Northern Ireland

Brexit has been the reality faced by UK businesses for some time now. Following a long and winding road, the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.

However, the real trouble began when the transition period ended on 31 December 2020, when the UK cut ties with the EU's single market and customs union, the ramifications of which were (and continue to be) widely felt across multiple sectors, including manufacturing.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to implementing Brexit was the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A free-flowing border with the Republic of Ireland was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Despite some of the more extreme views espoused by some members of the government and the DUP, it was widely recognised that the reinstatement of any hard border in Northern Ireland could jeopardise the peace process.

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Brexit The Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol

To avoid a hard border, the UK and the EU agreed on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which keeps Northern Ireland within the EU's single market for goods.

In other words, goods produced in Northern Ireland must meet EU standards and regulations, and goods imported from England, Scotland and Wales into Northern Ireland, were subject to the same checks as if those goods were being moved into the EU.

The Northern Irish Protocol was supposed to represent a solution to this major Brexit issue, but, as with most things Brexit-related, the Protocol created problems, especially for manufacturers and other businesses selling goods to Northern Ireland.

As a starter for ten, businesses have had to deal with customs declarations and comply with EU regulations to ensure their goods can be sold in Northern Ireland. That means extra paperwork, extra checks, and extra costs.

Moreover, there is the added frustration of delays and supply chain disruptions, as goods from other parts of the UK must go through additional checks and paperwork before they can be sold in Northern Ireland.

For some manufacturers, the added hassle and expense have made it unfeasible to continue selling their goods in Northern Ireland since the same is no longer commercially viable.

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The Northern Ireland Protocol

The Windsor Protocol & some good news

Despite the above, there is some good news. 

Following intense negotiations between the UK government, a new arrangement (the Windsor Framework) was agreed upon in principle, which aims to significantly reduce the number of checks regarding goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain by introducing red and green lanes. 

The operation of the red and green lanes may be summarised as follows: 

  • Goods from Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) destined for Northern Ireland will travel through the green lane. Subject to Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks and EU labelling requirements for certain food products, goods travelling in the green lane to Northern Ireland will be covered under a General Certificate. 
  • Goods "at risk" of moving to the EU will travel through the red lane and be subject to the same checks as before, i.e., full certification and customs declarations. 

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The Windsor Protocol some good news


In summary, products travelling via the green lane would see checks and paperwork significantly reduced.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, all parcels moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland were subject to full customs formalities. These are due to be scrapped, meaning customers based in Northern Ireland can buy goods from UK businesses without undergoing further checks.

Whilst the Windsor Framework must still be ratified by the Joint EU committee and respective governments, it is certainly a step in the right direction and sees a partial reinstatement of the frictionless movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland which can only benefit manufacturers.

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Conclusion v3

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If you need advice relating to manufacturing law, Brexit or the Windsor Framework, please contact our expert manufacturing solicitors. 

You can get in touch with our professionals via:

0161 941 4000

Robert Brothers's profile picture

Robert Brothers

Senior Associate

Rob has 7 years of experience acting as a Dispute Resolution solicitor. Rob has specialist expertise in professional negligence disputes, shareholder and partnership disputes, complex contractual disputes, intellectual property, reputation management and commercial agency claims.

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