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Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

When the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the European Union and the United Kingdom entered into force. The Withdrawal Agreement consists of two main documents:

On 24 December 2020, the United Kingdom and the European Union agreed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement, an Agreement on Nuclear Cooperation and an Agreement on Security Procedures for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information.

The transition period, during which EU laws continued to apply in the UK, ended on 31 December 2020.  On 1st January 2021, therefore, the Ireland - Northern Ireland Protocol came into force.  The objectives of the Protocol are set out in Article 1.


Article 1


  1. This Protocol is without prejudice to the provisions of the 1998 Agreement in respect of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of   consent, which provides that any change in that status can only be made with the consent of a majority of its people.
  2. This Protocol respects the essential State functions and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.
  3. This Protocol sets out arrangements necessary to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, to maintain the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation, to avoid a hard border and to protect the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions.


The remaining articles and associated annexes contained in the protocol are shown below.



Title and associated annexes 


Rights of Individuals
Annex 1 


Common Travel Area 


Customs territory of the United Kingdom 


Customs, movement of goods
Annex 2

Articles 5-10 which deal with trade and alignment   provisions ae subject to the democratic consent mechanism provided for in Article 18


Protection of the UK internal market


Technical  regulations, assessments, registrations, certificates, approvals and   authorisations


Vat and excise
Annex 3


Single electricity market
Annex 4


State aid
Annexes 5 and 6


Other areas of North-South cooperation 


Implementation, application, supervision and enforcement 


Common Provisions 


Specialised Committee 


Joint Consultative Working Group 


Annex 7 


Protection of Financial Interests 


Democratic Consent in Northern Ireland 


Further Papers on the Protocol

UK Government

- UK’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol

- Northern Ireland Protocol Command Paper

- Unilateral declaration on the consent mechanism (Article 18)


Joint Committee

The Joint Committee has a number of responsibilities deciding key issues under the Protocol, and has issued the following decisions in its meeting on 17th December 2020.

Meeting 17/12/2020

The following unilateral declarations were also issued – they were declared by one party and “taken note of” by the other. They relate to grace periods and the extension of EU pharmaceutical law in Northern Ireland.

Another meeting was held on 24th February 2021 and the Protocol was discussed further.

Meeting 24/2/2021

  • UK and EU took stock of the implementation of the Protocol and reiterated their full commitment to proper implementation of the Protocol and to upholding the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement 1998.
  • Agreed further engagement with business groups and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland
  • UK noted that it would provide a new operational plan with respect to supermarkets and their suppliers and additional investment in digital solutions.


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