Brexit & Beyond newsletter

12 February 2024

Welcome to the 12 February 2024 Brexit & Beyond newsletter

Membership of committees has been agreed in the Northern Ireland Assembly, including the new Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee, which meets for the first time on Thursday. The Senedd Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee has heard evidence about the introduction of the UK’s post-Brexit border controls, and its implications for Wales – Ireland trade.


Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee is established

The Northern Ireland Assembly met on 6 February and chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of Assembly committees were appointed. Today, membership of Statutory and Standing Committees were agreed. Philip McGuigan (Sinn Féin) has been appointed Chairperson of the new Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee. David Brooks (DUP) was appointed Deputy Chairperson of the Committee.

The Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee will meet for the first time on Thursday, 15 February. The role of the Committee is set out in UK Government legislation, the Windsor Framework (Democratic Scrutiny) Regulations 2024. It is to assist with the observation and implementation of Article 13(3a) and (4) of the Windsor Framework. These articles set out how new, amended or replacement EU law may apply in Northern Ireland, and make provision for the new Stormont Brake mechanism. If certain conditions are met, 30 MLAs can request that the UK Government ‘pull the Brake’ on amended or replacement EU law which would otherwise apply in NI under the terms of the Framework.

The Government has published a letter from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Speaker, which gives more detail on how the Committee will work, and how the Stormont Brake would operate. The UK Government “will endeavour to ensure the Assembly has timely access to all the necessary information and analysis it needs to carry out its work, including from the EU.” It intends to notify the Committee weekly about relevant proposed new or replacement EU acts, and to provide explanatory memoranda on these. When the EU publishes relevant amending or replacement acts, the Government may notify the Committee. The Committee will be publishing information about its work on its website, including decisions about inquiries and EU acts which have been notified to the Committee. 

Regarding the Stormont Brake, the letter notes that when submitting a notification, “members will need to include evidence that it meets the requirements set out in Article 13(3a) of the Windsor Framework, and the Article 13(3a) declaration.” These conditions are that:

  • the content or scope of the amended or replacement EU act “significantly differs, in whole or in part” from that of the original act;
  • the application of the amended or replacement EU act in Northern Ireland would “have a significant impact specific to everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland in a way that is liable to persist”;
  • the Northern Ireland Executive has been restored and the Northern Ireland Assembly is in regular session;
  • the notification is only being made “in the most exceptional circumstances and as a last resort, having used every other available mechanism”;
  • MLAs have sought prior substantive discussion with the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, and have consulted businesses, other traders and civic society affected by the EU act;
  • MLAs have made “all reasonable use of applicable consultation processes provided by the European Union”.

Source: Decision of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on laying down arrangements relating to the Windsor Framework


Wales and post-Brexit border controls

On 7 February, the Senedd Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee heard evidence from Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe about the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). The first phase of the BTOM came into operation on 31 January, after several delays. Export health certificates and phytosanitary certificates are now required for medium-risk animal products and plants and plant products imported to GB from the EU, including Ireland. Director for borders in the Cabinet Office Tom Smith said, “We did a lot of work with the Irish Government and the Irish authorities in the run-up to [the implementation of new checks on imports from Ireland], and we were monitoring this really closely last week. And what we've seen is that everything seems to be working very well at present.” Goods from Ireland are now subject to checks and controls, while ‘Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods’ have unfettered access to GB, even if moving via Ireland. Smith went on to say that there won’t be “a heavy process for people having to prove that their goods are indeed Northern Ireland qualifying goods, say, in Dublin.”

Samuel Kurtz, a Conservative Member of the Senedd, raised the decrease in the use of the landbridge for trade from Ireland through GB to the EU. He referred to green and red lane system established in the Windsor Framework for GB-NI trade, asking, “Is there a way of reciprocating the Windsor Framework in a way that means goods originating in the Republic of Ireland destined for the European Union could start using a land bridge—as in a green lane on the land bridge?” Smith said there are transit arrangements in place, which is “a relatively light-touch approach”. He added, “what we have, we think, is a proportionate approach to the risk from goods—sanitary and phytosanitary goods in particular—transiting GB. Obviously, we remain closely in touch with all business organisations, and if we see examples of possibly where we are putting disproportionate bureaucracy in place, we would be really happy to look at that”.

 Current and planned Border Control Posts in Wales and South West England

Current and planned Border Control Posts in Wales and South West England | Source: UK Border Target Operating Model

Baroness Neville-Rolfe noted that there won't be a border control post at Cairnryan, as stated in the Government’s Command Paper published on 31 January. She said, “we'll be enforcing the arrangements in a slightly different way, and that comes back to how we do anti-avoidance…the new arrangements won't come in before October on the west coast, to give time for readiness.” The Government has not yet set a date for the introduction of physical checks on Irish medium-risk animal products, plants, plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin. She said there is an inter-ministerial meeting at the end of February, where the date for their introduction will be discussed.

Neville-Rolfe commented on the Windsor Framework and recent negotiations. She said, “The Windsor Framework negotiations have been very tight, if I'm honest, and uncertain, so we haven't been clear what would happen. But the package is largely the same as the document that was put out last year.” Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the committee, “The EU, obviously, has supported the package that was announced last week. My own view is that the whole process of the Windsor framework, along with a few other things, like the agreement on Horizon, have helped to improve relations between the UK and the EU, which, in the sort of areas I'm dealing with on borders, is helpful.”

The BBC reports on potential legal action against the UK Government over the location of checks on food arriving in Dover, which are set to be carried out at a new inland facility.


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