The UK government has published its proposals for implementing the Irish Protocol it agreed last year as part of its Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. The deal was aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Stressing that the agreement does not create any kind of international border in the Irish Sea, the plan says there will be “unfettered access for” Northern Ireland’s producers to the whole of the UK market. It pledged that no tariffs will be paid on goods that move and remain within the UK customs territory.
The UK government says the deal will not involve new customs infrastructure. It acknowledges, however, that there will be “new administrative requirements” - though it says processes on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be “kept to an absolute minimum”.
Tariffs are to be collected on goods at risk of entering the EU’s single market at ports of entry. “This entails some new administrative process for traders, notably new electronic import declaration requirements, and safety and security information, for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK”, it says.
The UK also says its proposals respect the status of the island of Ireland as a single epidemiological unit for food and animal health purposes.
It says some checks will be needed in this area, but these will build on what already happens at ports such as Larne and Belfast.
There are also plans to establish a new forum to allow Northern Ireland’s businesses to put forward proposals and provide feedback on how to maximise the free flow of trade. The Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to join the forum.
Little progress has been made on future trade agreement between the UK and EU, which is supposed to be concluded by the end of a transition period at the end of this year.