Reduced checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland under new agreement

Thu 1 Feb 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News

The new deal struck between the UK government and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) yesterday (31 January) will mean fewer checks on goods entering the region from Great Britain, according to British and Northern Irish politicians.

‘Unfettered access’

The ‘Safeguarding the Union’ deal will mean less paperwork for firms moving consignments to Northern Ireland, according to the BBC.

In a document issued by the government to detail the new measures, which will alter how the Windsor Framework operates, it says it will issue legislation “guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market”.

The ‘green lane’ provision which makes up part of the Windsor Framework will be replaced “with a UK internal market system”. This, the government says, will be backed by “new protections for historic trade flows and reductions in burdens and formalities”.

It is committing to ensuring that over 80% of freight travelling from GB to NI is moved under this internal market system. Measures will also be included to ensure checks are still carried out on goods where crime or the spread of disease is a possibility.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, said:

“On customs paperwork again, customs declarations, supplementary declarations will be gone, and we believe this represents a significant change.”

Stormont return

The Northern Ireland assembly is to reconvene on Saturday (3 February) following the agreement, the FT notes.

The selection of a new speaker and first minister as well as other positions, along with a £3.3bn cash injection as part of the deal with the DUP, are likely to go some way towards addressing a squeeze on public services in the region.

Sinn Fein’s first minister designate Michelle O’Neil, meanwhile, said she was “absolutely up to the task” of taking the reins as head of Northern Ireland’s regional government.

The region may also benefit from the establishment of a new body – dubbed ‘Intertrade UK’ – which will aim to boost Northern Ireland’s position in the UK’s internal market. It will also be an explicit requirement of all future trade deals that their benefits will apply fully to Northern Ireland, per new legislation that will also make up part of the deal.

View from the EU

The EU’s perspective on the new deal was set out in a joint statement made by UK foreign secretary Lord David Cameron and Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s (EC) executive vice president, which said that “both agreed on the high importance of seeing the Northern Ireland Executive restored and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland”.

The EC said it will “analyse carefully” the details of the deal. Micheál Martin, the Republic of Ireland’s tánaiste (deputy prime minister), said that the “EU hasn’t been a party to the UK government talks, but my sense is that the [EC’s] main concern is the single market, not necessarily the transfer of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

View from IOE&IT

Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) head of strategic projects and international development, Kevin Shakespeare, gave his perspective on how traders should respond to the deal:

“It’s important to note that there is no need for the supplementary declaration previously required under the Northern Ireland Protocol when moving goods to Northern Ireland.

“Traders should stay vigilant. We would encourage all businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to sign up for the UK Internal Market Scheme (UKIMS).

“Whether you’re a supplier or a buyer, communicate and work together – that applies irrespective of where you’re moving goods.”