The Windsor Framework, the agreement signed last Monday between the United Kingdom and the European Union aimed at making trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland more fluid, it was received “cautiously” by organizations representing the UK’s food and drink industry. Not a small industrial branch, given that it is the largest manufacturing sector in the country: it represents 19% of the total manufacturing sector in terms of turnover and employs over 400,000 people in the UK in 7,000 companies.
The Fdf, Food and drink federation, which represents food and drink producers there, said that “the news that the UK and the EU have reached agreement on the protocol for Northern Ireland is welcome” but expects to see “how (and if) the deal will ensure that Northern Irish consumers can continue to enjoy a full choice of quality British products, without facing higher prices”.
The latest post-Brexit arrangements, detailed in the Windsor Framework, replace the older Northern Ireland Protocol, implemented as part of the original Brexit Understanding, and address the shortcomings and problems associated with it. Agreed on 27 February by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Windsor Framework ensures free trade in goods between Britain and Northern Ireland “by eliminating any sense of border in the Sea of Ireland for goods remaining in the UK”.
Under the new deal, when goods arrive in Northern Ireland they go through a ‘green lane’ if they are intended to stay in the region, or a ‘red lane’ if they are traveling to the EU. Green lane operators will be able to travel using normal commercial information, with the only checks aimed at preventing smuggling or crime; all goods destined for the EU will use the “red lane”. The agreement is intended to eliminate any sense of border in the Irish Sea within the UK: the green lane will include food retailers and hospitality businesses, significantly reducing sanitary and phytosanitary checks and bureaucratic formalities and allowing consumers to choose between supermarket shelves.
“A single supermarket lorry, which previously had to deliver 500 certificates, can now make a direct commitment to ensure that the goods remain in Northern Ireland”, the UK government stressed. In addition, chilled meats such as sausages and minced meat, which were banned under the old Protocol, will now, like other food products, be able to move freely in North Ireland. The new Framework replaces many EU laws with UK laws, ensuring that Northern Irish people can benefit from the same tax, food and drink, medicines and parcels policies as the rest of the UK.
The new agreement is also positively commented by Nifda, the North Ireland food and drink association which “welcomes the considerable efforts made by the British government and the EU to find common solutions on the North Ireland Protocol – explains Michael Bell , executive director of Nifda – Since the referendum and subsequent negotiations, the priority for Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry has been to find a lasting negotiated solution that keeps trade frictionless and allows our businesses to grow and thrive”.
“At first reading – adds Bell – the Windsor Framework appears substantial and balanced and represents the type of practical and pragmatic solutions that we have been calling for. We are working on the details of the agreement, but the agreement itself represents an important step forward both for the British Government and for the European Union”.