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Northern Ireland Protocol Update

By June 17, 2022No Comments

The UK Government has this week introduced a bill which takes unilateral action to alter the Northern Ireland Protocol, which they claim will fix four key issues. These issues are: burdensome customs processes, inflexible regulation, tax and spend discrepancies and democratic governance issues. They believe these changes are fundamental to restoring stability in Northern Ireland and protect the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.

The changes, in full, are:

  1. Green and red channels to remove unnecessary costs and paperwork for businesses trading within the UK, while ensuring full checks are done for goods entering the EU
  2. Businesses to have the choice of placing goods on the market in Northern Ireland according to either UK or EU goods rules, to ensure that Northern Ireland consumers are not prevented from buying UK standard goods, including as UK and EU regulations diverge over time
  3. Ensure Northern Ireland can benefit from the same tax breaks and spending policies as the rest of the UK, including VAT cuts on energy-saving materials and Covid recovery loans
  4. Normalise governance arrangements so that disputes are resolved by independent arbitration and not by the European Court of Justice

The proposals will continue to support the Common Travel Area and still ensure that goods moving between Great Britain and the EU are subject to EU checks and customs controls. The Government see these alterations as a last resort following 18 months of discussions between the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, her predecessor in negotiations Lord Frost, and Vice President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic.

The European Union have insisted that unilateral changes to the NI Protocol are illegal and have not ruled out suspending the Brexit trade deal as a result. They are also pursuing legal action. The UK Government continue to claim that their changes are indeed legal. The next few months will be critical as the Bill is debated in Parliament and the EU’s legal action unfolds.

DHSC have stated that Industry does not need to make any changes to the way that medicines or medical devices are currently supplied as a result of the Bill’s publication.

The Government have released a policy paper, “Northern Ireland Protocol: the UK’s solution”, for members who wish to understand the Government’s proposals in greater detail.


Natalie Creaney