03 March 2023


On the 27th February the European Commission issued a press statement on the political agreement in principle reached with the UK government on the Windsor Framework. The EC and the UK agreed on joint solution to address the practical challenges faced by citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland. The joint solutions cover, amongst other things, new arrangements on customs, agri-food, medicines, VAT and excise. These new arrangements are underpinned by robust safeguards to ensure the integrity of the EU's Single Market, to which Northern Ireland has a unique access. 

At the heart of the are proposals for ‘green’ and ‘red’ lanes that would end customs checks for goods staying in Northern Ireland. These new arrangements are based on an expanded trusted trader scheme that will also be open to businesses in Great Britain. Goods moved by trusted traders and not at risk of entering the EU's Single Market will benefit from dramatically simplified procedures and drastically simplified declarations with reduced data requirements. Substantial facilitations were found for freight and the movement of all types of parcels, i.e., business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer, with consumer-to-consumer parcels being entirely exempt from the main customs requirements. These new solutions are made possible especially by new data-sharing arrangements allowing for risk assessments, which would constitute the principle basis for controls. Robust authorisation and monitoring of the trusted trader scheme, and increased market surveillance and enforcement by UK authorities also act as safeguards. Full customs procedures will apply to goods at risk of entering the EU's Single Market. 

In the sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) area, the joint solutions ensure that the same food will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK. In practice, agri-food retail products for end consumption in Northern Ireland will be able to move from Great Britain with minimal certification requirements and controls. UK public health standards will apply for those agri-food retail goods for end consumption in Northern Ireland, whilst EU plant and animal health rules remain applicable for the protection of the EU Single Market. This arrangement is commensurate with a set of existing and new safeguards, including SPS inspection facilities and labelling which will be introduced gradually. When these safeguards are fully in place, identity checks will be reduced to only 5%. Physical checks will follow a risk-based and intelligence-led approach.

The European Commission and the Government of the United Kingdom now seek to translate the joint solutions into legally binding instruments and to implement these. The Commission has earlier this week made proposals to the Council for a Union position as regards, amongst other things, the decisions that need to be adopted in that meeting.

For more information see the European Commission’s Q&A pages.