Northern Ireland Protocol: EU proposals would “cut 80 per cent of checks” on goods

October 21, 2021

The European Union (EU) has proposed to cut 80 per cent of checks on certain goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The move could draw a line under the so-called ‘sausage war’ and ease the movement of goods under the Northern Ireland protocol.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Northern Ireland protocol?

The protocol was introduced to prevent customs checks along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to preserve the Good Friday agreement.

But as Northern Ireland is in the UK and the Republic of Ireland is in the EU, it was agreed that checks would instead be carried out between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

This means certain products – such as milk, eggs, meat, and pharmaceutical products – need to be inspected before they are allowed to arrive in Northern Ireland.

This has caused significant disruption for businesses moving goods to retailers in Northern Ireland, with some saying the protocol has effectively created a border in the Irish Sea.

What is changing?

Up until now, British businesses have benefitted from extended grace periods easing the flow of restricted products entering Northern Ireland.

But the grace period is set to finish at the end of this year, sparking disagreements with the EU on how the Northern Ireland protocol will work in the future.

Following discussions, the EU has now set out proposals that would lead to an “80 per cent reduction” in checks that would have been required on food products arriving in Northern Ireland.

The European Commission also suggests that the new rules could “halve” the amount of paperwork involved.

The rule changes include:

  • Farmed food products arriving from Great Britain in a single lorry would only need one certificate, rather than a different one for each product.
  • Reducing the amount of customs information firms need to provide.
  • Passing legislation to enable the trade of medicines between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  • Relaxing the rules on the movement of chilled meats.

The full list of proposals can be found here.

What does this mean for businesses?

The new rules would significantly ease disruption at the border, but may come at a cost. The EU has requested additional safeguards in return, such as access to UK data.

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