Northern Ireland Protocol

Northern Ireland Protocol: All You Need to Know

This article on ‘Northern Ireland Protocol: All You Need to Know’ is written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.


In the international trade law, trade policies are made between the countries for barrier-free trade. Ireland, or what we called the island of Ireland is composed of two countries the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland which is located on the north side of the island. While Northern Ireland has been a member of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, generally referred to simply as Ireland, is a sovereign independent state.

Due to Great Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, Ireland is a member of the European Union (EU), but Northern Ireland is not (called Brexit). As a result of the Good Friday Agreement, there is no longer a physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Since Ireland is a member of the EU and Northern Ireland will continue to adhere to many EU regulations, the invisible border may continue to exist.

However, a regulatory border will exist between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain as well as between the Republic of Ireland and England and Wales. In this article, we attempt to summarise the whole issue of the Northern Ireland protocol between the EU and the UK.

What is the NIP (Northern Ireland Protocol)?

The Northern Ireland Protocol serves as a border for the movement of products between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The EU has a policy requiring that all items imported from non-EU members be thoroughly inspected by their border guards. We all know that the UK is a member of the EU and that goods are transported between the EU and the UK using the Northern Ireland border without being checked.

The only single path for commodities to enter the UK and Ireland, as previously mentioned, was through Northern Ireland, which was located to the north of the Irish Sea. Soon after the UK leaves the EU, goods are transported throughout the UK and Ireland without being inspected thanks to the Good Friday Agreement.

However, because Ireland is a member of the EU, imported commodities from the EU arrive in Ireland unchecked by EU protocol. Through the Northern Ireland border, which is a part of the UK, the goods are delivered to the UK and Ireland. The UK passed legislation and imposed restrictions on the import of products from the EU, stating that although items exported to Ireland are not scrutinized and are placed immediately in a green line, goods imported into the UK must first pass inspection before being permitted.

What about relations between the EU and Northern Ireland?

Whether you are exporting goods from the UK and Ireland (in the republic) to EU countries, no additional customs checks or limitations will be imposed (in the north).

However, “Belfast bootlegging” is discouraged for anyone attempting to take advantage of the lack of customs checks between the European Union and Northern Ireland and from there to Great Britain. A representative for the UK government stated, “We are clear that we will continue to pursue smuggling and criminal conduct in all circumstances.”

The protocol stipulated that any inspections and document checks would take place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain rather than at the Irish border for goods (England, Scotland, and Wales). These take place in the ports of Northern Ireland. Also agreed upon was the continuation of Northern Ireland’s adherence to EU product standards regulations.

What does the UK want to change?

The Brexit agreement between the EU and UK must inspect certain products upon entry into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. Currently, when products arrive at the ports in Northern Ireland, they are scrutinized before being transferred into the Republic of Ireland. According to the UK’s new design, the items were divided into two separate lanes. The Green Lane is used for goods that are only intended for Northern Ireland and are not checked. The red lane is where goods heading for Ireland and the EU are checked.

Why has the protocol faced opposition?

Unionist organizations favour the UK’s integration of Northern Ireland. They claim that the position of Northern Ireland as a UK member is in jeopardy if a physical border is established across the Irish Sea. The opposition, however, rejected it. Imported goods from EU countries hurt domestic business, which is the fundamental justification for opposition to this protocol.

What is the UK government proposing?

Politicians claim that since the Protocol was signed, issues have arisen that were not anticipated. The UK government now wants to cancel some of the agreements. For products brought into Northern Ireland from Britain, it intends to establish red and green lanes. These items would be subject to thorough inspection and customs procedures.

The tax laws would alter. Businesses in Northern Ireland are currently subject to EU regulations on state aid and VAT, which means that any subsidies or tax benefits provided there must fall within EU-set parameters. These limitations would be lifted by the bill. The UK government prefers an impartial entity to the European Court of Justice for adjudicating conflicts involving the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Northern Ireland Protocol
Northern Ireland Protocol

What is the EU’s objection to the UK’s Law?

The UK was sued by the European Commission for violating the convention it had signed. Additionally, it urged the administration to resume talks, claiming there hadn’t been any significant discussions since February. It has offered to improve the protocol’s implementation but is not willing to alter the terms of the agreement. It has also provided its recommendations for enhancing the way the protocol is used, including:

  • lowering sanitary and customs checks on products travelling from the UK to the NI
  • easing regulations to allow the continued shipment of chilled foods, such as sausages, over the Irish Sea by cutting the paperwork for agri-food shipments to a three-page document per lorry.


International trade needs to be barrier-free because the globalization of the world economy is better for the general public. Globalization has given the global north an unfair advantage. The policy of the EU for members and non-members is discriminatory. The UK has its reason for the new law, but the EU says it is also a sign of a trade war. If these two trade groups do not talk to each other for common goals until then, this situation does not seem settled.