Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland: explanations

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the “Northern Ireland Protocol”, is part of the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (Brexit) who cares avoid the establishment of a physical border on the island of Ireland after 31 January 2020, when the UK officially left the EU.

The Protocol takes into account the special situation of the island of Ireland. It has been agreed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) and the European Union (EU) as one stable and durable solution for the purpose of protecting the economy of the whole island as well as the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) in all its components and to preserve the integrity of the EU single market.

Who signed?

The protocol was signed on behalf ofEuropean Unionby the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

It was signed on behalf of United Kingdom, by Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister. As part of the wider Withdrawal Agreement (also known as the “Brexit Agreement”), the Protocol has been ratified by the EU and the UK and approved by the European Parliament.

When was it signed?

The Brexit agreement and the associated protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland were signed on 24 January 2020.

The protocol is applied since 1 January 2021.

What are the main goals?

Both the EU and Great Britain have recognized unique location on the island of Ireland. In the protocol, the parties expressly took note of the need:

  • to avoid the establishment of a physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and to protect the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement) of 1998, which aims to promote exchanges between communities and guarantee the absence of a physical border between Northern Ireland and Ireland
  • protect the integrity of the EU’s internal market for goods

What does the protocol cover?

The protocol ensuresadaptation to EU rules: Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK’s customs territory, is subject to a limited set of EU rules regarding internal market for goods et al’customs union. EU Single Market rules that apply in Northern Ireland include:

  • commodity legislation, e.g. industrial products, agricultural foodstuffs and medical supplies
  • sanitary and phytosanitary rules (SPS) regarding veterinary control
  • the rules on the production and marketing of agricultural products
  • the provisions relating to VAT and excise duties on goods
  • arrangements for a single wholesale electricity market on the island of Ireland
  • state aid rules

The protocol introduced a new system of control and control at points of entry, for example ports, on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK or any other third country. Additionally, these items are subject to rates EU, unless there is no risk of them entering the EU.

The authorities in the United Kingdom are responsible for the implementation and application of the provisions of EU law made applicable by the Protocol in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland. It is therefore the authorities in the United Kingdom who carry out all the necessary controls, while the EU has appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement.

This system guaranteesabsence of checks and balances between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Irelandthereby avoiding the establishment of a physical border and ensuring the free movement of goods according to the rules of the EU Customs Union.

The protocol also allows for a consent mechanism which providesAssembly of Northern Ireland -one decisive vote in terms oflong-term application of the relevant provisions of EU law under the protocol. This consent mechanism empowers the Assembly to decide by simple majority whether the provisions of the Protocol should be terminated or maintained. Four years after the entry into force of the Protocol, on 1 January 2021, the Assembly can vote to give its consent to the continued application of the relevant EU legislation. The first consent vote is expected to take place in December 2024.

What does the EU propose to facilitate the implementation of the protocol?

After in-depth discussions with the British government and off contacts with stakeholders in Northern Irelandhas the European Commission offeron 13 October 2021, custom layouts emphasizes greater flexibility in the implementation of the protocol.

These concrete measures respond to the difficulties faced by citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland due to Brexit. They particularly concern foodsthat plant and animal healththem customsthem medicine and collaboration with Northern Irish stakeholders.

On 12 April 2022, the EU adopted rules aimed at creating permanent solutions to ensure continuity of medicine supply from Great Britain to Northern Irelandin accordance with the measures presented by the Commission on 13 October 2021 to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol on the ground.

On 15 June 2022, the European Commission published summary documents within customs and sanitary and phytosanitary regulations (SPS). The publication of these position papers follows extensive discussions with the UK Government and stakeholders in Northern Ireland which have taken place since the European Commission proposed tailored arrangements in October 2021. .


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