Following nearly 18 months of confusion, complexity, and concern for people trading between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, Boris Johnson has proposed a new solution. The Northern Ireland Bill, if passed, will effectively allow businesses to decide whether or not the NI Protocol applies to them or not.
The radical proposal comes a few weeks after the DUP refused to form a government in Northern Ireland until the NI Protocol issues are dealt with. It is also the second controversial Brexit-related bill to be in the spotlight in recent weeks, with the Brexit Freedoms Bill being formally announced by Prince Charles during The Queen’s jubilee.
Both bills have met strong support and opposition from within and outside the government.
What will the Northern Ireland Bill do?
The Northern Ireland Bill will involve invoking Article 16, which is a piece of legislation within the NI Protocol that allows either side (of the UK or the EU) to unilaterally amend the protocol to resolve economic, environmental, or social difficulties.
This bill will allow companies to nominate whether they are trading over the border into the Republic of Ireland or not, with the latter being able to remove checks on goods that are not destined to leave the UK’s customs territory.
The main purpose of the NI Bill is to assist companies in Northern Ireland who have been placed at a disadvantage in the UK market by the NI protocol, but also keep things steady for businesses that trade with the Republic of Ireland.
The EU has strongly opposed the NI Bill and will be looking to take legal action against the UK if the bill is passed. The Irish prime minister has also called for negotiations between the UK and the EU to find a resolution together.
When will the NI Bill be introduced?
The Northern Ireland Bill must be passed through parliament before it is set into UK law. There are 5 stages to this process, which happen separately in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords:
– First reading.
– Second reading.
– Committee stage.
– Report stage.
– Third reading.
Multiple readings, committee and report stages give members of parliament the opportunity to fully understand the bill, raise objections, and decide whether they support or reject it.
Before the process has even begun for the NI Bill, there is already strong opposition within the government that will delay or block the bill’s approval. Additionally, many will reserve their support until their is greater understanding, and confirmation that the Northern Ireland Bill is not breaking any international laws.
What does the Northern Ireland Bill mean for customs clearances when trading between the UK and Northern Ireland?
The NI Protocol will still apply to all movements until the Northern Ireland Bill is passed, although there will likely be amendments to the bill if it is. Therefore, there is nothing to prepare for relating to the NI Bill.
Movements with Northern Ireland are also not subject to many of the additional checks that came with the real Brexit, in January, due to the trade lane not being ready for further restrictions.
The Customs Support network includes offices around the UK, Ireland, and the rest of the EU. If you could benefit from someone who is on both sides of your supply chain with Ireland, contact one of our team for more information.