EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission has today put forward a balanced package of measures to address some of the most pressing issues related to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. It demonstrates the EU’s strong commitment to finding creative solutions – including by changing its own rules – with the core purpose of benefitting people in Northern Ireland.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s co-chair of the Joint Committee, said: “Our work is about ensuring that the hard-earned gains of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement – peace and stability in Northern Ireland – are protected, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU Single Market. Therefore, we have spared no effort in trying to mitigate some of the challenges that have arisen in the implementation of the Protocol. Today’s package of practical solutions clearly demonstrates that we are firm on implementation but continue to work hard for the benefit of the people in Northern Ireland.”     

First, the European Commission will today take note of the UK’s request, via separate unilateral statements, to extend a grace period for the movement of chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland until 30 September 2021.

Secondly, the Commission has put forward solutions in a number of areas, including for the continued supply of medicines and for guide dogs, as well as a decision waiving the need to show an insurance green card, which is of particular benefit for motorists in Northern Ireland. These solutions help to ensure that the application of the Protocol impacts as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland. They highlight the EU’s commitment to – and ability to deliver – solutions that work.

Extension of the grace period for chilled meats

The EU and the UK will today, through an exchange of separate unilateral declarations, provide a further time-limited solution for the movement of chilled meats (e.g. sausages) from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This grace period will end on 30 September 2021. The purpose of this additional period is to allow stakeholders, and in particular supermarkets in Northern Ireland, to complete the adjustment of their supply chains.

This temporary solution is subject to strict conditions. For example, the meat products that are subject to the channelling procedure referred to in the United Kingdom’s unilateral declaration must remain under the control of the Northern Ireland competent authorities at all stages of that procedure. These meat products must be accompanied by official health certificates issued by the UK competent authorities, can exclusively be sold to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland, and must be packed and labelled accordingly. The EU also underlines the importance of ensuring that Border Control Posts in Northern Ireland have the necessary infrastructure and resources to be able to perform all the controls required by the EU’s Official Controls Regulation.

Practical solutions for Northern Ireland

The Commission has engaged thoroughly in identifying flexibilities and technical solutions to ensure stability and predictability afforded by the full and effective implementation of the Protocol. For example, solutions have been found in the following areas:

  • Medicines: The Commission has identified a creative solution to ensure the continued long-term supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The solution involves the EU changing its own rules so that regulatory compliance functions for medicines authorised by the UK for the Northern Ireland market, in accordance with the Protocol, may be located in Great Britain, subject to specific conditions ensuring that the medicines concerned are not further distributed in the EU Internal Market. The Commission will put forward a legislative proposal in the early autumn in order to be able to finish the legislative process on time.
  • Guide dogs: The Commission identified a solution to facilitate the movements of guide dogs accompanying persons travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This has been communicated to the UK authorities and it is for the Northern Irish competent authorities to now define the details for its implementation on the ground.
  • Green Card: The Commission has today announced a decision to waive the obligation to show the motor insurance Green Card for drivers from the UK. This will be particularly helpful for Northern Irish motorists crossing the border into Ireland.
  • Movement of certain animals: The Commission has identified a solution to facilitate the movement of livestock from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This involves removing the need for re-tagging when animals move multiple times between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during their life. The Commission adopted an implementing act to that effect on 29 June 2021 (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1064). The Commission is also working on a regulatory solution to facilitate the swift return of livestock to Northern Ireland from exhibitions or trade fairs in Great Britain, so that the animals concerned will not have to wait for a minimum residency period in Great Britain. The relevant delegated and implementing acts will be adopted in October 2021. Work is also ongoing on a solution regarding the risk control of scrapie, to facilitate the movement of sheep and goats between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Background

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, was agreed jointly and ratified by both the EU and the UK. It has been in force since 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law. The aim of the Protocol is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, maintaining peace and stability in Northern Ireland, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, while preserving the integrity of the EU Single Market. In order for these objectives to be achieved – and to pave the way for further opportunities – the Protocol must be implemented in full. The UK government’s failure to do so jeopardises the attainment of these objectives.

The EU has continuously engaged in good faith within the Joint Committee to find pragmatic solutions to help minimise disruption caused by Brexit and to help facilitate the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland. The EU has consistently sought to bring all those concerned onto a clear trajectory to full compliance with the Protocol.

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