Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: What the text of the Protocol says about Northern Ireland... and what it really means

 

'EU VAT rates and rules apply in Northern Ireland even if the rate differs from the rest of the UK' (stock photo)
'EU VAT rates and rules apply in Northern Ireland even if the rate differs from the rest of the UK' (stock photo)
Jon Tonge

By Jon Tonge

Jon Tonge analyses some key parts of revised Brexit deal agreed by UK and EU

On customs

What it says:

"Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the UK. Accordingly nothing in this Protocol shall prevent the UK from including Northern Ireland in the territorial scope of any agreements it may conclude with third countries, provided that those agreements do not prejudice the application of this Protocol…

"A good brought into Northern Ireland from outside the (European) Union shall be considered at risk of subsequently being moved into the Union."

What it means:

Northern Ireland will be included in UK trade deals. But EU customs rules will apply to their application in Northern Ireland if goods involved in the deal are sold on to the EU. So goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland for onward sale to the EU would need to conform with EU customs - the "customs border in the Irish Sea".

On regulations

What it says:

"The United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland shall be indicated as 'UK(NI)' or United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) … provisions of Union law made applicable by this Protocol shall not be read as including the UK in respect of Northern Ireland as regards technical regulations, assessments, registrations, certificates, approvals and authorisations issued or carried out by the authorities of the UK or by bodies established in the UK."

What it means:

EU standards apply to all goods heading to the EU single market. A distinct category of goods - UK(NI) - will be created to help ensure conformity to EU standards and confirm those standards to EU member states. Again, goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would need to conform to those standards and be labelled as UK (NI) - "the regulatory border in the Irish Sea".

On VAT

What it says:

"The provisions of Union law … concerning goods shall apply to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland."

What it means:

EU VAT rates and rules apply in Northern Ireland even if the rate differs from the rest of the UK.

On consent

What it says:

"For the purposes of this Article, the initial period (for Assembly consent) is the period ending 4 years after the end of the transition period. Where the decision reached in a given period was on the basis of a majority of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, present and voting, the subsequent period is the 4 year period following that period … Where the decision reached in a given period had cross-community support the subsequent period is the 8-year period following that period."

What it means:

Northern Ireland will automatically be aligned to EU single market and customs rules once the deal is implemented. There is no local vote on opting in. Four years later, the Assembly will vote on renewing alignment. If an overall majority votes in favour of continuation, but not a majority (or 40%, depending on whether or not what the Assembly decides shows parallel consent) of both unionist and nationalist Assembly members, Northern Ireland stays aligned for four years. If cross-community majorities of unionist and nationalist MLAs vote in favour (or 40% of each if the Assembly decides) then Northern Ireland stays aligned to EU rules for eight years.

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