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On 27 February 2023, the UK Government announced the introduction of changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement (NI Protocol). The Windsor Framework is intended to address some of the problems faced by the EU and UK during the partial implementation of the NI Protocol. This international agreement will commit both parties, the UK and EU, to binding international law obligations, and will amend the current arrangements in place, directly amending the NI Protocol.
The Windsor Framework establishes three main areas in which the current arrangements are being reformed:
- Restoring the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market;
- safeguarding the NI place in the Union;
- addressing the democratic deficit.
The Windsor Framework establishes therefore specific arrangements with regards to the movement of goods, creating a trusted trader scheme whereby companies may benefit from reduced red tape and checks during internal UK trade, with full customs procedures in place for goods intended for the EU market. These facilitated procedures are supported by data-sharing arrangements which will allow for risk to be an element of market surveillance activities. Additional safe-guards may be in place for specific sectors, such as labelling requirements for agri-foods (including ‘not for EU’ indications).
The Stormont Brake has been introduced though the new framework, allowing Members of the Legislative Assembly in NI to stop the application in NI of amended or replacing EU legal provisions that may have a significant impact. This mechanism would be triggered under specific circumstances in a well-defined process. This veto can be challenged though independent arbitration mechanisms, removing jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The agreement between the EU and the UK on the Windsor Framework effectively removes the need to pursue other regulatory and legal actions. Therefore, the UK government has agreed to no longer proceed with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (June 2022), and the EU will no longer proceed with the seven separate legal challenges it had brought against the UK in relation to the Protocol.