UK and EU agree ‘in principle’ on rules regarding Northern Ireland following Brexit

The EU and UK have today (Tuesday December 8) agreed ‘in principle’ the rules surrounding the implementation of the Protocol on Northern Ireland which forms part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee – European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and the UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove – yesterday held a political meeting to address the outstanding issues related to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The protocol protects the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement.

Statement of agreement

In a statement Sefcovic said that following “intensive and constructive work” over the past weeks by the EU and the UK, the two co-chairs can now announce their agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

An agreement in principle has been found in the following areas, amongst others:

  • Border control posts / entry points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products;
  • Export declarations;
  • The supply of medicines;
  • The supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets;
  • A clarification on the application of state aid under the terms of the protocol.

The parties have also reached an agreement in principle with respect to the decisions the Joint Committee has to take before January 1, 2021.

This concerns the practical arrangements regarding the following:

  • The EU’s presence in Northern Ireland when UK authorities implement checks and controls under the protocol;
  • Determining criteria for goods to be considered ‘not at risk’ of entering the EU when moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland;
  • The exemption of agricultural and fish subsidies from state aid rules;
  • The finalisation of the list of chairpersons of the arbitration panel for the dispute settlement mechanism so that the arbitration panel can start operating as of next year;
  • Correction of errors and omissions in an annex of the protocol.

As a result of the agreed solutions, the UK will withdraw certain clauses in the UK Internal Market Bill which compromised the Northern Ireland protocol, and not introduce any similar provisions in its Taxation Bill.

Next steps

This agreement in principle will now be subject to respective internal procedures in the EU and in the UK.

Once this is done, a fifth regular meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee will be called to formally adopt them. This will take place in the coming days and before the end of the year.