On Tuesday, the UK formally announced plans to unilaterally change the terms of the Protocol by introducing so-called “green” lanes for goods that are intended to remain within Northern Ireland and “red” lanes for goods destined for the EU.
In theory, such a system sounds like it would have merit. However, details on how this could be achieved have yet to be communicated from the UK side. And as is often the case in these matters, the devil may certainly lie within the detail.
How Will The Northern Ireland Protocol Be Regulated?
There are many questions which would arise from this scenario regarding how it would be regulated and policed. For example,
1. How will it be determined whether the goods are staying in NI or travelling onto the EU.
2. What about mixed loads which are part Northern Ireland and Part ROI.
3. Could goods which come into Northern Ireland be sold freely to ROI.
Clearly the above are questions that the EU side would want answers to. The level of traceability required within supply chains would be extremely difficult (some would argue impossible) to implement in practice.
If the UK side can answer the above questions with clarity, then there still may be a possibility for both sides to get what they want from the Protocol. However, should the UK fail to provide this clarity, and unilaterally introduce the legislative changes to the Protocol, then there is a distinct possibility of the EU introducing trade restrictions or tariffs on UK goods. This could lead to a full-on trade war, which would not be good for either side. Let us hope that the devil is not, indeed, in the detail.
In terms of the here and now, we must continue to operate the current rules until the legislation is announced and the details emerge. Rest assured that when they do the Easy Customs Team will be ready to help you through this transition.