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What the new ‘Windsor Framework’ means for shoppers in Northern Ireland and rest of UK



Setting out his new “Windsor Framework” alongside EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday, Rishi Sunak said the deal would allow for a “smooth flow of trade within the United Kingdom”.

He said in a press conference that the new arrangement would end “burdensome customs bureaucracy” which was hitting many businesses moving goods between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Sunak added that the changes would have a big impact on the goods available on supermarket shelves, and would make it easier to send parcels and buy certain plants in garden centres.

Here’s what the changes announced by the Prime Minister mean for consumers across the UK:

More food on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland

The new Windsor Framework will mean a greater range of products made in Great Britain can easily be sold on Northern Irish supermarket shelves by removing bureaucracy for suppliers.

The original deal struck by former prime minister Boris Johnson created a de-facto border in the Irish Sea, creating significant friction when it came to trading goods such as chilled meats and dairy.

Goods arriving in Northern Ireland were subject to checks and paperwork regardless of whether they were staying in the country or being moved to the Republic of Ireland.

Grace periods on some rules were implemented to allow businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to adapt to the new system.

But clashes between the UK and the EU led to many being extended indefinitely while negotiations continued, which created uncertainty for businesses.

Many suppliers in Northern Ireland have removed certain products from their shelves due to the bureaucracy, or have sought out local suppliers.

Under the new deal announced by Mr Sunak, goods destined for Northern Ireland can pass through a “green lane”, meaning they are subject to minimal checks, while goods destined for the Republic of Ireland will be subject to the checks required by the EU.

The Prime Minister said the change would mean “supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers will no longer need hundreds of certificates for every lorry”.

This will significantly reduce the costs to suppliers in Northern Ireland, and means many goods currently only available on the British mainland can now be stocked on their shelves.

It will now be easier for Northern Irish supermarkets to stock goods from Great Britain (Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters)

No customs paperwork on sending parcels

Consumers in Northern Ireland receiving parcels from suppliers in Great Britain would have had to fill out customs declarations under the rules of the Protocol.

These rules were never implemented due to a grace period, and the current arrangement is now set to continue, according to Mr Sunak.

“Today’s agreement means people sending parcels to friends and family or doing their shopping online, will have to complete no customs paperwork,” the Prime Minister said.

The deal also benefits businesses to business parcels travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which can now be processed via the “green lane” customs route.

Reduced VAT on alcohol and other goods in Northern Ireland

Previously, changes to VAT rates set in Westminster could not apply in Northern Ireland under the rules set out in the Protocol.

The nation was required to align the country with EU VAT rules for goods, including on goods moving to, from and within Northern Ireland.

This requirement has now been lifted under the new deal, meaning the cuts to alcohol duty applied in the UK can now apply in Northern Ireland.

The change means that the costs of pints and other alcoholic drinks at hospitality venues will now be lower nationwide.

Changes to VAT laws will also reduce the cost of energy-saving materials like solar panels in Northern Ireland.

An employee pours a pint of Peroni beer on at the bar in the Mad Hatter pub and hotel, operated by Fuller's, in London on November 30, 2022. - At The Mad Hatter pub, everything is ready: the huge Christmas tree, the luminous and golden garlands. On the bar sits signs that read: "Come and celebrate Christmas with us!" and "We're all crazy here!", as a selling point. After two years of pandemic and ruined festivities, the sector is counting on the season which is opening to recover. But between the cost of living crisis, strikes for purchasing power and worker shortages, nothing is less certain. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY By Veronique DUPONT (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Cuts to alcohol duty will now apply in Northern Ireland (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

More plants and seeds available in NI garden centres

Shops in Northern Ireland were previously unable to sell “quintessentially British” plants such as English oak trees and seed potatoes under the rules of the Protocol, as transporting them required a costly certificate.

But, as the Prime Minister announced today, these requirements have now been dropped, meaning such plants “will again be available in Northern Ireland’s garden centres”.

Plants and seeds being moved between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will now only require a “plant passport”, which ensures plants and plant products are traced throughout the supply chain and declare compliance with plant health requirements.

This process is much simpler than the one required under the Protocol agreement, making it easier for garden centres to stock British plants.

Access to UK-approved medicines in Northern Ireland

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland was still subject to EU regulations relating to pharmaceutical products which created shortages of some medicines.

However, under the new system, any medicine approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK can be sold in Northern Ireland.

This means new medicines such as cancer drugs can be available more quickly in Northern Ireland, without having to await approval by the European Medicines Agency.

Mr Sunak described it as a “landmark settlement” which meant that approved drugs would be “automatically available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland”.

Restrictions on pet travel lifted

Under the Protocol, pet owners travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland previously had to produce a range of documentation which could be costly to obtain.

But Mr Sunak said on Monday that these “onerous requirements on pet travel have been removed” under the new deal with the EU.

This means significantly reduced costs for owners travelling with their pets within the UK, who now only need to sign up for a lifetime travel document for their pet or fill out a form when booking travel.

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