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22nd July 2021

BCC Calls for Negotiated Settlement Following Latest NI Protocol Announcement

Responding to the announcement of the new UK approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: 

“Businesses in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland need durable, workable, negotiated solutions on compliance with the Protocol to ensure the continued two-way flow of goods East-West and North-South. The UK and EU governments need to work together to find solutions which work for business.

“A negotiated solution on customs, agri-food and e-commerce deliveries which deals with all of the red tape issues, is preferable to unilateral actions. An SPS agreement would deal with the most obtrusive border checks and controls, but customs and e-commerce issues also need to be dealt with by the autumn.

“Since January there has been continued uncertainty for businesses as various easements have been applied, followed by approaching cliff edges and then extensions of the easements. Firms need durable and consistent arrangements which provide clarity about trading conditions in the medium to long-term.

“Stronger engagement with business, particularly in Northern Ireland, must be central to the next stage of this process if viable solutions are to be found.”

Chambers Wales is accredited by the British Chambers of Commerce and are part of a powerful network of 53 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.

Compliance issues with the Protocol

GB businesses and the NI business community had long warned the UK Government and European Commission about the practical problems with compliance with the terms in the Protocol, including:

  • Need for export health certificates to accompany the movements of milk, meat and fish from GB to NI. Documentary, identity and some physical checks required on goods arriving in NI.
  • Ending of certain chilled meat products moving from GB to NI (requirement for these to be frozen)
  • Introduction of cutoms declarations, safety and security certificates fir each postal packet from GB to NI.
  • Establishment rule, meaning companies have to be operational in NI or use NI customs agents to lawfully send goods to NI
  • Goods at risk of entering the Single Market from GB through NI being subject to special processes

Various easements were put in place to deal with most of these difficulties. Both sides also reach agreement on the treatment of ‘at risk’ goods. Apart from the easement on the establishment rule (due to end on 1 November), the other easements are due to expire on 1 October.

The UK Government and Euopean Commision negotiated with each other through the specialised and Joint Committees under the Withdrawal Agreement an both engaged NI businesses (through the NI Business Brexit Group) on reaching longer-term agreementson compliance as the easements expired. One fifth of total checkls at the EU’s external border were in NI, but that is down to the large quantities of food and other products entering NI from GB. The UK Government also points to the scale of trade distortion through replacement on NI-GB goods movements with supply from ROI to NI.

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