United Kingdom and European Union leaders on Monday announced they have made a deal on a new post-Brexit trade agreement for Northern Ireland.
The new agreement aims to smooth out various trading rules and checks for goods going between Northern Ireland, the rest of the U.K., and the rest of Europe.
The agreement, if adopted by British lawmakers, could repair some of the tensions caused by the previous Northern Ireland Protocol, such as the de facto border between the two islands it created in the Irish Sea.
Here’s how the proposed framework could impact the average Northern Ireland resident, according to U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The View From The Supermarket
Sunak said at a press conference that goods from Great Britain destined for Northern Ireland would go through a new “green lane” in which “burdensome customs bureaucracy will be scrapped.”
That means “food retailers like supermarkets, restaurants, and wholesalers will no longer need hundreds of certificates for every lorry,” Sunak said.
And the agreement would end a current setup in which food made to comply with U.K. rules couldn’t be sent to and sold in Northern Ireland.
“This means that if food is available on supermarket shelves in Great Britain, then it’ll be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland,” Sunak said.
The View From The Pub
Changes to tax laws in the agreement would mean that rule changes in the U.K. would apply to Northern Ireland as well.
That includes alcohol duty costs, Sunak said, “meaning our reforms to cut the cost of a pint in the pub will now apply in Northern Ireland.”
The U.K. government extended a freeze on alcohol duty to fight rising costs in December, reducing prices by 7 pence on a pint of beer and 38 pence on a bottle of wine, the BBC reported.
Other proposed regulatory changes announced Monday include:
- Shipping rules: People sending packages between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., or those doing online shopping, would no longer have to complete customs paperwork, Sunak said.
- Medicines: Any drugs approved for use by the U.K’s medicine regulator “will be automatically available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland,” Sunak said.
- Furry friends: Onerous regulations for transporting pets would be removed.
While the agreement is accepted by senior leaders in both the EU and the U.K., the British Parliament and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will need to decide whether they will accept its implementation.
For months, Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland’s government, has been at an impasse as members have failed to elect a new house speaker following an election last spring. The DUP has refused to power-share with other parties until the removal of the de facto sea border created by the previous protocol. Power-sharing is required if the government is to function.
The DUP has previously argued that the Northern Ireland Protocol could threaten the country’s place within the U.K.
The agreement will now go to lawmakers in Northern Ireland and the U.K. for review. Sunak has promised to give the DUP time to review the agreement, and members of the U.K. Parliament will vote to ratify the new protocol.