How could the Northern Ireland Protocol work and what are the challenges in ensuring that it is operational before the end of the transition period? In accordance with the protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to apply EU customs legislation and comply with its product standards rules (the so-called internal market for goods). The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will come into force at the end of the transitional period. It was designed as a stable and sustainable solution and can be expected to apply alongside any agreement on the future partnership. The Northern Ireland Protocol Command Document provides additional details on the fundamental principles and the work of the UK Government to implement the protocol and assist businesses that have come into force. This document was presented to Parliament on 10 December. The protocol stipulates that goods that move GB-NI and are « not threatened » by the subsequent move to the EU and are not subject to commercial processing, must not pay customs duties. The decision on the « unseered » criteria was deferred to the Joint Committee. However, the Northern Ireland Protocol will remain necessary, whether a trade agreement has been concluded or not, as EU legislation requires a number of standard product controls, even in the event of tariffs being abolished. The Northern Ireland Protocol is to be welcomed in some respects.
It gives Businesses in Northern Ireland the certainty that trade relations with the EU (including kings) and Britain will remain virtually unchanged until the end of the transition period. For NI companies that trade only on the island of Ireland, the withdrawal agreement will ensure security on the status quo (including free market access for EU goods) after the end of the transitional period and regardless of the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. The Northern Ireland Protocol replaces the current plan, the so-called « backstop » Plan, negotiated by former British Prime Minister Theresa May. The protocol is expected to come into force on 1 January 2021, the first day of new EU-UK relations. The agreement would allow certain products – for which trade is limited by EU legislation – such as chilled meat and deli meats to continue to migrate between GB-NI for six months. The UK government intends to solve this problem in the long term through a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Customs subject to the provisions of the protocol on cessation and amendments, The EU/UK customs union of the annex applies to goods: manufactured on the customs territory of the European Union or on the customs territory of the United Kingdom, including all or partly retained or obtained from goods from third countries that […] The Northern Ireland Protocol, negotiated by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last October, is part of the withdrawal agreement (which some have called a « divorce agreement ») in which the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.