A new trusted trader scheme is now in effect with a system of “green and red lanes” at Northern Ireland ports
By John Campbell
BBC News NI economics and business editor
A key part of the Windsor Framework has been implemented with the start of a new system for moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The framework, which was agreed by the EU and UK in February, is the revised post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.
It is intended to ease trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
That labelling change is due to be rolled out across the rest of the UK next year.
The first lorries to operate under the green and red lane system arrived in Belfast Harbour on Sunday morning on board the Stena Superfast VIII ferry from Cairnryan
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the new system would mean “the substantial majority” of trade from GB to NI will be “treated as UK internal trade”.
The framework modifies the Northern Ireland Protocol, the 2019 deal which kept Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods.
That arrangement keeps the Irish land border open, but has meant products arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subject to checks and controls.
On Sunday, a new trusted trader scheme came into effect with a system of “green and red lanes” at NI ports.
The first lorries to operate under the green and red lane system arrived in Belfast Harbour on Sunday morning.
There were 23 lorries on board the Stena Superfast VIII ferry from Cairnryan in Scotland.
The green lane/red lane system is supposed to reduce bureaucracy for GB goods which have Northern Ireland as their final destination.
Goods which are coming from GB to be sold to consumers in NI will use the green lane meaning minimal paperwork and few routine checks.
Companies will have to be signed up to a new trusted trader scheme to use the green lane.
There were some trusted trader processes under the protocol but Mr Heaton-Harris said the new scheme was open to a wider range of businesses.
New labelling rules come into effect on Sunday although some retailers have begun to implement them in advance
“Over 1,600 new businesses are now registered under the new UK Internal Market Scheme, who were not members of the UK Trader Scheme and all of which can now move their eligible goods free from costly tariffs,’ he added.
The biggest change is in the treatment of food products.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, food products being sold in Northern Ireland had to be produced to EU standards.
That meant products coming from GB faced costly bureaucracy to prove their products met the EU rules.
“Grace periods” meant these requirements were never fully imposed on supermarkets after they warned it would make their Northern Ireland businesses unworkable.
Under the Windsor Framework, UK public health and safety standards, rather than EU standards, will apply for all retail food and drink.
That means a wider range of GB trusted traders who are sending food for sale in Northern Ireland will face much reduced bureaucracy.
The flipside of this is the introduction of the ‘Not for EU’ labels on GB food products, to give a level of assurance to the EU that products will not wrongly be sold in its single market.
Image source, Liam McBurney
Chris Heaton-Harris said the new system would mean “the substantial majority” of trade from GB to NI will be “treated as UK internal trade”
Shoppers from the Republic of Ireland can still take goods home from Northern Ireland but cannot resell them.
Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Some major UK retailers which were excluded from the old ‘grace periods’ faced burdensome red tape moving food into Northern Ireland under the old system but can move products through the green lane.”
James Duke of Manfreight, one of NI’s major hauliers, told the BBC they were not anticipating any major problems with the new systems but that one potential issue could be lack of preparedness among some GB suppliers.
But he said it would not be “a repeat of 2021” when the protocol was introduced adding that government agencies are being “very pragmatic and collaborative”.
However, some businesses will face ongoing bureaucracy, particularly food wholesalers who distribute goods across NI and the Republic of Ireland.
Andrew Lynas, who runs Lynas Foodservice, said that about 75% of his goods coming from GB will have to use the red lane
Goods which will potentially be sold in the Republic will not qualify for green lane processes and will instead have to use the red lane.
Andrew Lynas, who runs Lynas Foodservice in Coleraine, told the BBC that about 75% of his goods coming from GB will have to use the red lane.
He gave the example of a dessert being supplied from a company in Wales.
“We may sell 100 cases of that a month, 98 of stay in NI and two could go to the Republic and yet all 100 of those have to get all the checks for the red lane.
“So it’s difficult to get the supplier to understand and to want to, maybe, supply us.”
But he said the big advantage of the framework is that it brings certainty after years of Brexit uncertainty.