House of Lords’ committee reports on the potential impact of the Windsor Framework
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The committee's report into the economic, political, legal and constitutional impact of the Windsor Framework was published earlier this week.
It confirms that business representatives and other stakeholders have welcomed the agreement by the UK and EU of a mutually agreed solution, and the potential this provides for problems that arise in the future to be resolved in a collaborative manner.
According to the report, the benefits of the provisions of the Windsor Framework include the movement from Great Britain to Northern Ireland via the green lane of retail goods, agri-food produce including chilled meats, parcels, pets and human medicines.
For some businesses, however, the processes under the Windsor Framework will be more burdensome than under the Protocol as it has operated with grace periods and easements.
However, the committee is calling on the government to answer outstanding concerns highlighted by business and retailers.
These include the movement of livestock from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and back, and concerns that Northern Ireland businesses may be placed at a competitive disadvantage with Great Britain-based retailers in their own market.
While welcoming the extension of the grace periods for veterinary medicines until the end of 2025, the Committee heard warnings from industry representatives that without a permanent solution, the supply of over 50 per cent of veterinary medicines to Northern Ireland may be discontinued, posing a risk both to animal and human health, and to agri-food supply chains.
Committee Chair, Lord Jay of Ewelme, commented: "The Windsor Framework is a distinct improvement on the original protocol.
"But it does not solve all the problems which the Protocol raises.”
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"The benefits to business include easier movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland through the green lane. For some businesses, however, processes will be more burdensome under the Windsor Framework than under the Protocol as it operates now.
“And where there is uncertainty, the red lane, with its more complex procedures, may have to be used.”
He added: "Though the Windsor Framework is a clear improvement over the original Protocol, it is highly complex. Businesses need clarity. The Government and the European Union both need urgently to explain what the Windsor Framework means in practice for businesses.
"The Government and the European Union need to remain closely in touch with each other. But they must also ensure that Northern Ireland stakeholders are closely engaged throughout."
Meanwhile, Retail NI has welcomed the House of Lords Committee report on the Windsor Accord as a fair statement of the challenges facing the local business community with its implementation.
Retail NI Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts, who gave evidence to the committee, said: "This report sets out a fair estimation of the challenges which will be faced by the local business community with the implementation of the Windsor Accord.
“We agree with its main recommendation that it is an improvement on the NI Protocol.
"It also rightly highlights issues around labelling requirements that impacts on our members. Retail NI is disappointed at the lack of effective engagement on the labelling issue with only a few months to go before the new system is introduced.”
He concluded: "We need to ensure this new scheme works for independent retailers and large supermarkets alike."
"On the implementation of the Windsor Accord, we need to see a more structured engagement with our local business sector, the EU and UK Government to address the opportunities and challenges ahead."