Brexit & Beyond newsletter

16 October 2023

Welcome to the 16 October 2023 Brexit & Beyond newsletter

Parliament returns from recess this week, with debates on Retained EU Law, and Windsor Framework regulations. The European Parliament International Trade Committee visited Parliament Buildings and met with local politicians. The Senedd has been considering the implications for Wales of the Windsor Framework and the UK’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU. The Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland commented on a potential veterinary agreement with the EU, while meat processors are warning about the difficulties for the industry posed by the Windsor Framework. The Northern Ireland Department for the Economy has published a report on the risks to cross border transfer of personal data.


European Parliament International Trade delegation visits Northern Ireland

Five MEPs from the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade travelled to Northern Ireland and Ireland last week. They met with the Speaker of the NI Assembly, Alex Maskey, and then held discussions with DUP MLA Diane Dodds, Alliance MP Stephen Farry, and Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney on the Windsor Framework and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

 Local politicians with members of the European Parliament International Trade Committee at their meeting in Parliament Buildings

Local politicians with members of the European Parliament International Trade Committee at their meeting in Parliament Buildings

Ahead of the meeting, Chair of the Committee Bernd Lange said, “We would like to see how the new [Windsor Framework] arrangements work in real life and therefore we welcome the opportunity to talk to a wide range of actors on the ground. As we are currently working on the implementation reports of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement these impressions and information provide important input for our parliamentary work. The focus must always be on the people and on resolving their practical problems.”

The Committee on Foreign Affairs (which visited Northern Ireland recently) and the Committee on International Trade are preparing a joint implementation report on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The European Parliament has committed to thoroughly monitor the Windsor Framework's implementation.

The Committee also met EU officials, academics from Queen University Belfast, civil society representatives, and members of the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group.


Wales and the Windsor Framework

The Senedd Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee heard evidence from academics on the impact on Wales of post-Brexit trade arrangements. Professor Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast said the smoothness of the new arrangements for GB-NI trade (the new Windsor Framework ‘green lane’ for retail agri-food started on 1 October) is in part thanks to direct engagement between UK officials, Northern Ireland officials, and those directly involved - only about half a dozen big supermarkets. She added that DAERA, the NI Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, has been “really key” in trying to get detailed information from the UK Government on the interpretation of the new rules and guidance for businesses. She suggested there could be more difficulties around Christmas and in later phases of the Framework’s implementation when it gets more complicated and involves more businesses.

Samuel Kurtz MS asked about the possibility of a ‘green lane’ for EU products transiting the land bridge in the UK and then going through Welsh ports to the Republic of Ireland. Professor in transport and logistics from Cardiff University Andrew Potter said this “would be nice to end up with” but would be challenging. Hayward noted that unusually, the Windsor Framework classifies goods in relation to their destination, rather than where they are coming from, saying, “This is really very peculiar in border management terms…it would be very unlikely to apply to any other circumstances, including Ireland to Wales.” She noted that friction could be reduced in other ways, through a closer UK-EU relationship e.g. an SPS agreement (more on this below).

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Minister for Economy also gave evidence to the committee. He noted the “significant trade diversion” away from Welsh ports and the land bridge to direct routes from Ireland to continental Europe. He said for the Welsh Government, the definition of a ‘qualifying Northern Ireland good’ has been important, pointing out the incentive to travel from the Republic of Ireland through Northern Ireland to become a qualifying Northern Ireland good, which would divert trade from Welsh ports. He told the committee, “We've managed to find definitions, particularly on food and feedstocks, for Northern Ireland businesses, and that's meant that the incentives aren't there to avoid travelling through Pembrokeshire in particular.” He went on to say, “We've made some progress on the definition, but it's not comprehensive, and relying on people to do the right thing is difficult, because, if the law says you can do it and you're a business and it affects your bottom line, there'll be plenty of people who'll do that.”  The Minister said that inter-governmental discussions on the timetable for introducing physical checks on non-qualifying NI goods are expected within days or weeks. The UK Government’s Border Target Operating Model sets out its plan for the definition of qualifying NI goods and controls on non-qualifying goods.


EU-UK relationship

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Hilary Benn told UTV last week that he views the Windsor Framework as “a very important step forward”. He said he was “astonished” when he saw the Stormont Brake, arguing that it provides a means for the Assembly to express concerns about EU legislation and “should offer a considerable reassurance”. He reiterated Labour’s position to negotiate an SPS/veterinary agreement with the EU, saying it would be “such a sensible step to take” and wouldn’t just help trade across the Irish Sea, but also across the English Channel. He noted that to date there has been relatively little divergence by the UK and food is generally being produced to the same standards as before.

BBC Economics and Business Editor John Campbell notes that the Labour party “pointedly haven’t committed to the sort of deal which would definitely make a big difference” to GB-NI trade i.e. a Switzerland-style arrangement based on alignment with EU rules.

The UK Government previously raised the possibility of SPS equivalence with the EU during the negotiations on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the EU “would not countenance it”. Lord Benyon states, “We are open to discussions with the EU on additional steps to further reduce trade friction, but these cannot be on the basis of future alignment with EU rules. This would compromise UK sovereignty over our own laws.”


Other news

  • The Northern Ireland Department for the Economy has published a report on the risks to cross border transfer of personal data. In June 2021, the European Commission adopted two data protection adequacy decisions after an assessment of the UK's law and practice on personal data protection, meaning this data can be exchanged from the EU to the UK. The decisions will have to be renewed after four years. The report finds that a loss of adequacy “would have significant and specific implications for NI due to its economic and social ties with the [Republic of Ireland] RoI”. It highlights that a loss of adequacy may have an effect on the ability of organisations to comply with their Windsor Framework duties. Trade expert Sam Lowe covers this in his newsletter, concluding, “At the political level — so long as EU-UK relations are okay, the adequacy decision should also be okay. But I do worry somewhat about the ECJ, which is not to be trusted on issues such as this.”
  • The Grocer reports that representatives of the meat processing industry are warning that British companies could move their production sites away from Northern Ireland because they have to use the red lane to send meat to NI for processing, which could cost them “hundreds of thousands of pounds per year” because of extra paperwork and physical checks. Peter Hardwick, Trade Policy Adviser at the British Meat Processors Association, explained the issues for the industry to the Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol earlier this year: the majority of their members move goods to NI for processing, and therefore won’t benefit from the Retail Movement Scheme. He highlighted the difference in requirements for EU-GB trade compared to GB-NI trade: once the Border Target Operating Model comes fully into force next year, “GB operators will have to complete the full suite of import, customs and certification requirements to send goods to another part of the United Kingdom, but EU operators will not need to do so to send goods to GB…All of that equates to time and cost.”
  • The UK in a Changing Europe has published a Q&A on the EU’s managements of its post-Brexit relationship with the UK.
  • The Senedd Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has submitted evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC)’s inquiry on devolution capability in Whitehall. It notes that an International Relations Concordat was planned as part of the Intergovernmental Relations Review but has yet to be agreed. It views common frameworks, generally, as “a positive example of intergovernmental working between officials and Ministers with positive examples of joint-decisions being made” but points out that the Welsh Government has “warned about examples of UK Government departments taking decisions outside of Common Framework structures, thereby by-passing the processes for coordination within them.” The UK’s exit from the EU had implications for the devolution settlement and the matters on which the Assembly – and legislatures in Scotland and Wales - can legislate. Read more about Common Frameworks and the Intergovernmental Relations Review on our website.

Find MLAs

Find your MLAs

Locate MLAs


News and Media Centre

Visit the News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Follow the Assembly on our social media channels

Keep up-to-date with the Assembly

Find out more

Useful Contacts

Contact us

Contacts for different parts of the Assembly

Contact Us