The industry has broadly welcomed the new deal struck between the UK and EU for goods travelling to Northern Ireland – the so-called Windsor Framework – but cautioned that it must not now become bogged down in political ideology.
The new deal, reforming the controversial Protocol, is intended to end checks and bureaucracy on goods destined for NI.
These goods will travel through a ‘green lane’, with a separate ‘red lane’ for goods moving onto the EU and these will be subject to normal checks.
It also means freight moving from NI to GB would not be subject to export declarations and current bans on certain products entering NI would be scrapped.
Nichola Mallon, head of trade and devolved policy at Logistics UK, said the deal was “positive news” and the business group was now poring over the details: “Logistics UK has remained at the forefront of discussions surrounding the NI Protocol, regularly meeting with senior political figures and EU representatives,” she said.
“During these discussions, Logistics UK has consistently reinforced the importance of an agreed, durable outcome between the UK and EU on the NI Protocol in relation to securing the stability and predictability businesses need.”
The SMMT also welcomed the deal but only “if it allows for the streamlined flow of goods, including vehicles and automotive components”.
Mike Hawes, SMMT CE, added: “We must now build on this renewed trust and momentum to unlock all elements of the TCA and maximise the potential of the deal to benefit both the UK and wider European automotive industry.”
The Windsor Framework is now subject to scrutiny by NI’s largest union party, the DUP, which could still torpedo the deal.
ParcelHero said any further delays in greenlighting the deal threatened the UK economy and weakened the chances of any further EU post-Brexit deals: “This agreement in principle means British goods destined for Northern Ireland will go through a green lane, without unnecessary checks and paperwork, while products destined for the Republic of Ireland will receive closer examination in the red lane,” said ParcelHero head of consumer research, David Jinks.
“That seems an eminently sensible solution.
“However, we fear that the UK-EU deal could still end up in the red lane, leaving British businesses still unable to sign off their 2023 sales campaigns for Northern Ireland.
“Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now must get the deal past those Brexiters in his government ideologically opposed to any continuing role for the European Court of Justice, and the DUP, which objects to any deal imposing restrictions between Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Jinks added: “The time has come for politicians to put aside ideology in favour of getting trade moving.
“Continuing uncertainty and bureaucracy are creating huge headaches for retailers simply wishing to continue trading in this vital part of the UK market, and for exporters hoping for wider UK-EU trading reforms.”