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What the Windsor Framework means for the food and beverage industry
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

2 March 2023

What the Windsor Framework means for the food and beverage industry

A UK-EU agreement intended to deliver smooth flowing trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland (NI) was announced on Monday this week. This news has received a cautious welcome from organisations representing the UK food and beverage industry, as FoodBev reports. In response to the recent deal, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) stated that “news that the UK and EU have reached an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol is welcome,” and that they look forward to seeing how (and if) the deal will ensure that Northern Irish consumers can “continue to enjoy a full choice of quality UK products, without facing higher prices”. The latest post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland – detailed in the Windsor Framework – replace the old Northern Ireland Protocol that was implemented as part of the original Brexit deal, and address the shortcomings and issues associated with it. The old Protocol effectively meant that NI remained part of the European Union for trading purposes.

Agreed on 27 February by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Windsor Framework delivers free-flowing trade in goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland “by removing any sense of the border in the Irish Sea for goods staying within the UK”. When goods arrive in NI, they will now travel through a ‘green lane’ if they are destined to stay in the region, or a ‘red lane’ if moving on to the EU. Traders in the green lane will be able to travel using ordinary commercial information, with the only checks designed to prevent smuggling or crime. This is the same type of standard commercial information used when moving goods from Birmingham to the Isle of Wight. All goods destined for the EU will use the ‘red lane’. The Framework replaces many EU laws with UK laws, which ensures that NI’s population can benefit from the same tax policies, food and drink, medicines and parcels as the rest of the UK. Michael Bell, executive director of Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said: “NIFDA welcomes the considerable efforts of both the UK government and the EU to find joint solutions on the NI Protocol. Since the referendum and subsequent negotiations, the priority for the NI food and drink industry has been for a durable negotiated solution that maintains frictionless trade and allows our businesses to grow and thrive.” He continued: “On first reading, the Windsor Framework looks substantial and balanced, and represents the kind of pragmatic, practical solutions that we have been urging. We are working through the detail of the deal, but the agreement itself is an important step forward by both the UK government and European Union.” The Framework states that “the Agreement rewrites the Treaty text with a new Stormont Brake that means the UK can veto new EU goods laws if they are not supported by both communities in Northern Ireland, which goes far beyond previous agreements or discussions on the old Protocol”.

In Sunak’s announcement, he said: “Today’s agreement is…about stability in Northern Ireland. It’s about real people and real businesses. It’s about showing that our Union, that has lasted for centuries, can and will endure. And it’s about breaking down the barriers between us. Setting aside the arguments that have for too long, divided us. And remembering the fellow feeling that defines us: this family of nations – this United Kingdom.” The agreement is intended to remove any sense of a border in the Irish Sea within the UK. As such, the green lane will include food retailers and hospitality businesses, significantly reducing sanitary and phytosanitary checks and paperwork, while enabling choice for consumers on supermarket shelves. The UK government said: “A single supermarket truck who previously had to provide 500 certificates can now instead make a straightforward commitment that goods will stay in Northern Ireland”. Furthermore, chilled meats like sausages and minced meat, which were banned under the old Protocol, will now, like other food products, be able to move freely into NI. The agreement concludes months of discussions between the UK and EU, which, to provide reassurance for the future, agreed to work together to anticipate and deal with any other issues that may emerge. To give businesses and individuals time to prepare, the implementation of the agreement will be phased in this year and into 2024. The UK government will no longer proceed with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and the EU will withdraw all of the legal actions it has launched against the UK.

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