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EU-GB: The fight for Northern Ireland - Round 10 (July - September 2021)

The UK escalates the fight for NI by wishing to redo the I/NI protocol and indefinitely extended the Grace Period. Here is the summary of the latest drama.


  • The UK has indefinitely extended the grace period

  • Trade remains as is, and no change will occur. There are no additional border checks for goods other than what is today.

  • Customs declarations will continue to be lodged.

  • The practical implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a significant challenge for both parties


  • The UK voted to leave the European Union.

  • The UK government decided that this meant leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.

  • By triggering Article 50 on 29 March 2017, it chose the moment it wanted to leave the EU.

  • It decided not to extend the transition period.

  • The UK government decided the type of future relationship it wanted, by excluding a more advanced closer relationship similar to the European Economic Area.

  • The UK government negotiated, agreed and signed the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. Its Parliament ratified it.

  • The exercise of sovereign right to enter into international agreements goes hand in hand with the responsibility to respect them once they are concluded.


Whilst fully respecting the democratic decision of UK voters to leave the EU, a vast majority of EU citizens very much regretted it – after so many decades of close cooperation and partnership. A majority of people here in Northern Ireland shared this view.

An orderly withdrawal

After countless hours of intense, line-by-line negotiations, the EU and finally managed to achieve what at times seemed impossible: Ensuring the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU.

A new, ambitious partnership

They established the foundations of a new, ambitious relationship between two strong partners. Reaching consensus on Northern Ireland was seen as the most challenging

part of those negotiations. Together, they indeed found such a solution – the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. It serves a number of purposes:

  • It protects the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its parts;

  • Respects the constitutional order of the United Kingdom;

  • Avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland;

  • And preserves the integrity of the EU's Single Market;

  • While ensuring that the UK as a whole leaves both the Single Market and the EU's Customs Union – a key demand of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

This solution was shaped, agreed and approved, together – by both sides – and therefore, so both parties share responsibility for making it work on the ground.

What the UK agreed to

On the UK side, it agreed that EU rules on goods would remain applicable to Northern Ireland, accepting that this would mean checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, acknowledging a role for the EU's institutions. This is the only way to avoid a hard border between north and south.

What the EU agreed to

On the EU side, it agreed that the UK would carry out those checks and controls on our behalf. No other jurisdiction in the world had done this before.

This solution required compromise. Everyone around the table understood what these compromises meant in practice. And the implementation of this agreement will continue to require compromise from both sides.

Great Britain traders state problems

Excerpts of problems experienced as per the statement in the House of Lords

  • I have to say to him, however, that the difficulties encountered by Northern Ireland consumers and businesses may be greater than he recognises.

  • I am still being contacted by constituents who are finding it difficult to order online items from Great Britain.

  • There are many parcel companies and others that will not deliver to Northern Ireland and will not even accept orders from Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol.

  • Businesses in Northern Ireland are also having difficulty ordering spare parts for equipment and importing raw materials.

  • Just this week, our steel manufacturers in Northern Ireland have been informed that they face a 25% tariff on some steel imports as a direct result of the Northern Ireland protocol, because we cannot align with the UK quota on that.

  • Consumers continue to face difficulties in supermarkets. It is not the case that all supermarket shelves are fully stocked.

  • Yesterday, we met some of the main supply chain people in Northern Ireland, who talk of ongoing difficulties in bringing goods in from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Those issues need to be resolved.

Post-Brexit checks are suspended unilaterally

In September 2021, Lord Frost announced that the plans for post-Brexit checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland as required under the Northern Irish and Irish Protocol have been suspended indefinitely by the UK after negotiations with the EU reached a stalemate. Grace periods designed to ease the transition into new trading arrangements and checks on the island of Ireland have twice been extended as part of diplomatic wrangling labelled “the sausage wars” - the guardian reports

The statement read:

The Government set out in its 21 July Command Paper, ‘Northern Ireland Protocol: the way forward, proposals to find a new balance in the operation of the Protocol.
The Government proposed to the EU on 23 July a ‘standstill’ arrangement to maintain the operation of the Protocol on the current basis, and to pause current legal actions, to provide space for discussions on those proposals. The EU announced on 27 July that it was not, at that stage, moving to the next stage of the legal proceedings it started in March. There have since been initial technical talks between the UK and the EU. These will continue in order to determine whether a constructive process can be established for discussing and addressing the issues identified with the Protocol.
Following on from this, to provide space for potential further discussions, and to give certainty and stability to businesses while any such discussions proceed, the Government will continue to operate the Protocol on the current basis. This includes the grace periods and easements currently in force. Operational and other guidance will be updated to reflect this approach. We will ensure that reasonable notice is provided in the event that these arrangements were to change, to enable businesses and citizens to prepare.

Reply by the EU

The Commission reserves its rights in respect of infringement proceedings. At present, the Commission is not moving to the next stage of the infringement procedure launched in March 2021, and is not opening any new infringements for now.


  • Northern Ireland trade remains a political and practical challenge

  • It sours relationships between the EU and the UK

  • Trade remains as is, and no change will occur. There are no additional border checks for goods other than what is today.

  • Customs declarations will continue to be lodged.


Speech by Lord Frost announcing an indefinite suspension of the grace period in September 2021

Written statements - Written questions, answers and statements - UK Parliament
Download PDF • 45KB

Statement by EU Commission

Download • 30KB

Speech by EU Commission in Belfast in September 2021

Speech_by_Vice-President_Maro___ef_ovi__at_the_Queen_s_University__Belfast_ (1)
Download PDF • 44KB

Speech by Lord Frost, 4 September 2021

Lord Frost speech at British-Irish Association_ 4 September 2021 - GOV.UK
Download PDF • 409KB

July 2021 Extension of grace period

Extension to Northern Ireland Protocol grace period for chilled meats agreed - GOV.UK
Download PDF • 104KB

July 21 Command Paper on Northern Ireland

Government outlines significant changes needed to make Northern Ireland Protocol sustainab
Download • 108KB

Disruption of GB-NI trade

Northern Ireland Protocol_ Disruption to
Download • 388KB


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