Red and green lanes implemented in Windsor Framework update

Mon 2 Oct 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche, Danielle Keen
Trade News

UK and NI flags

Yesterday (1 October) saw the introduction of the next phase of the Windsor Framework, bringing in new customs rules and checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The framework was brought in to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol – the agreement signed between the UK and EU to ensure that a hard border was avoided on the island of Ireland following Brexit.

The red and the green

The new stage sees the introduction of the ‘green lane/red lane’ system, where two sets of differing customs checks will be performed according to where goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are being sold.

Goods for sale in Northern Ireland will use the ‘green lane’ and be subject to minimal checks, providing firms sign up to new ‘trusted trader’ schemes.

Goods travelling further, for sale in the EU including Ireland, will be subject to more comprehensive checks with more documentation required.

Relaxed measures

Food sold in Northern Ireland will apply UK food standards, putting an end to the so-called ‘sausage wars’, when fears arose of a possible ban of chilled meat products being sold in Northern Ireland due to EU standards applying instead of UK ones.

ID inspections on goods crossing the border will also be substantially reduced, from 100% of sealed lorries down to just 5% in 2025.

Plant products will now no longer need full EU customs certification to enter Northern Ireland either if they are not for sale outside the region.

Compliance concerns

Some in Northern Ireland have voiced concerns that the new phase of implementation of the Framework will create a compliance headache for smaller firms.

The Belfast News Letter heard from Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Neil Johnston on the change, who said there will be “a lot of shelves in smaller stores that are not compliant” with a new requirement to include a ‘not for EU’ label on all prepacked meat goods coming through the green lane, as well as specific dairy products.

BBC News also reported last week on the appearance of the first posters alerting shoppers to the labelling in Tesco stores in Northern Ireland.

This follows the first ‘not for EU’ label sightings on Northern Ireland supermarket shelves this summer, as firms prepared for yesterday’s deadline.

Business challenges

Some traders have questioned the changes, highlighting the extra costs involved.

Sarah Forsyth, head of operations at Golden Acre Foods, told the IOE&IT Daily Update that despite the emphasis on reducing barriers, the framework “is certainly more complex than what we’re doing at the moment”.

The sentiment was echoed by Nichola Mallon, former Northern Ireland infrastructure minister and head of trade body Logistics UK, who told the FT the changes would be “a huge learning process” for businesses and that many are not “fully ready”.

The government has announced a £50m support package to help businesses with the costs associated with producing new labels, along with an extension of the Movement Assistance Scheme, which waived fees associated with inspections and certificates required under the protocol.

Stormont

Border arrangements have been an ongoing source of tension between Northern Ireland’s major political parties, with the DUP blocking power sharing in Stormont for the past year in protest to the checks.

Comments made by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson suggest the framework is still an unsatisfactory compromise.

Speaking to Cool FM on Friday, he said:

“We are back in discussions with the government on the outstanding concerns that we have… We don’t believe that what’s there at the moment actually delivers what the prime minister said it would."

Republican parties have taken the opportunity to present the Framework as a chance for Northern Ireland to exploit business opportunities arising from its unique access to UK and EU markets.

Speaking at the NI investment summit last month, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, said “there is a tremendous opportunity here and we have to capitalise on access to both markets”.