News article

Brexit: UK Government publishes its approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol

20 May 2020


Command paper outlines how the Northern Ireland protocol can be implemented

The Government has published its approach to implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of meeting in full its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.

The command paper outlines how the protocol can be implemented in a pragmatic, proportionate way:

  • one that protects the interests of the people and economy of Northern Ireland
  • recognises Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and its internal market
  • provides appropriate protection for the EU Single Market
  • respects the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland

It states that the UK Government’s priority will remain strengthening Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and preserving the gains from the peace process and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

The paper also sets out four key commitments that will underpin the UK Government’s approach to implementing the Protocol:

  • There will be unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s producers to the whole of the UK market and this will be delivered through legislation by the end of the year.
  • No tariffs will be paid on goods that move and remain within the UK customs territory.
  • Implementation of the Protocol will not involve new customs infrastructure - with any processes on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland kept to a minimum so that the integrity and smooth functioning of the UK internal market is protected.
  • Northern Ireland’s businesses will benefit from the lower tariffs delivered through new Free Trade Agreements with countries like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan - ensuring Northern Ireland firms will be able to benefit from the full benefits of the access they have to the GB and EU markets.

View the UK’s Approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Democratically elected institutions in Northern Ireland will decide whether to extend or end the arrangements in a consent vote that can take place every four years, with the first vote taking place in 2024.

The publication also sets out plans to establish a new business engagement forum, which will meet regularly to allow Northern Ireland’s businesses to put forward proposals and provide feedback on how to maximise the free flow of trade. The Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to join the forum.


First published 20 April 2020