154. The Government has been clear on the need for the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU to take account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. In particular, the UK Government has committed to avoiding any hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and to upholding the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its successors in full. We have been clear that the best way to meet those commitments is through a deep and special future economic partnership which applies between the UK and the EU as a whole. That objective is explicitly provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland (the Protocol).
155. The December Joint Report [Joint report on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU, 8 December 2017] also committed to a so-called “backstop” solution as a safeguard, which we have codified in the Protocol. This will ensure that, in all circumstances, the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK will be maintained; that there will be no split in the UK’s customs territory; and that we will maintain the conditions which underpin the lives and livelihoods of the people of Northern Ireland.
156. The text is clear that the backstop is not the preferred or expected outcome. It sets out a best endeavours commitment to negotiate this future relationship as a whole, and a more specific best endeavours commitment in the Protocol to reach a future agreement which supersedes the backstop by December 2020.
157. The Protocol also establishes that the implementation period could be extended, subject to mutual agreement, for a limited period of time as an alternative to the backstop coming in to force. This means that there will be an option to avoid the backstop even in the event that our future relationship is not complete and a temporary bridge is required. In those circumstances, whether it would be preferable for the backstop to come into effect for a temporary period, or to request a temporary extension of the implementation period, will be a sovereign choice for the UK Government. This would allow the UK Government, with an appropriate role for Parliament, to consider the right approach in the national interest.
158. The Protocol meets the four key objectives outlined by the Prime Minister in her statement to the House of Commons in October [https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-statement-on-european-council-22-october-2018]: a UK-EU joint customs territory that is legally binding in the Withdrawal Treaty; an option to extend the Implementation Period; assurances that we cannot be kept permanently in the backstop; and protections to ensure Northern Ireland’s businesses have full access to the UK internal market. Context
159. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border with an EU Member State, and the free and unfettered movement of goods and people across that border is vital to the lives and livelihoods of the people on both sides of the border. The December Joint Report also made clear the importance of Northern Ireland in the UK internal market, outlining that Northern Ireland businesses must continue to have the same unfettered access to the whole of the UK.
160. In December 2017, the UK and the EU agreed in the Joint Report that ‘in the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement’. This guarantee was important to assuring the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland that, in all circumstances, a hard border would be avoided.
161. The UK Parliament has since, in the Withdrawal Act, voted in favour of placing the December Joint Report commitments on a statutory footing; to avoiding a hard border and any related checks and controls; and, in the Taxation (CrossBorder Trade) Act 2018, to ensuring that Northern Ireland does not form part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain. The legal text agreed between the UK and the EU delivers on these commitments.
162. The UK Government remains firmly committed to negotiating a future relationship that permanently avoids the need for a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is reflected in the outline Political Declaration, published alongside the Withdrawal Agreement today. However, as an additional safeguard, the December Joint Report committed to a so-called “backstop” solution, which we agreed should be codified in legally operative text in the Withdrawal Agreement.
163. The UK and the EU have therefore agreed a Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which guarantees that, even in the unlikely event that our future relationship with the EU is not in place by the end of the implementation period, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland or a splitting of the UK customs territory.
164. The recitals provide the context of the unique challenges on the island of Ireland, recognising the rights and principles in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement that are relevant to the Protocol and reaffirm commitments made in the December Joint Report. This includes commitments to the citizenship provisions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and to current and future PEACE and INTERREG funding programmes.
165. They also reflect common understanding between the parties on key concepts. The recitals recognise the UK and EU’s common objective of a close future relationship and intention that the backstop should be superseded by a subsequent agreement with alternative arrangements to achieve its objectives. The recitals explicitly recognise Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market, and note that nothing in the Protocol will prevent Northern Ireland businesses enjoying unfettered access to the whole UK market.
OBJECTIVES AND SUBSEQUENT AGREEMENT (Articles 1-2)...
166. This sets out the objectives of the Protocol and both parties’ clear intention that it should apply temporarily, along with an obligation for both parties to work towards agreeing a subsequent agreement that will supersede the application of the Protocol.
167. These articles set out that the Protocol is without prejudice to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and affirm the territorial integrity of the UK and the principle of consent set out in that Agreement. That principle sets out that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland is a matter of the ‘freely exercised and legitimate’ choice of a majority of people who live there; and that there shall be no change in that status without the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and by agreement between the two parts of Ireland, with that constitutional future decided ‘without external impediment’.
168. Article 1(3) outlines the objectives of the Protocol: to establish arrangements necessary to address the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, maintain the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation, avoid a hard border and protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. Article 1(4) makes clear that the objective of the Protocol is expressly not to create a permanent relationship between the UK and the EU, and that it is intended to apply only temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement in whole or in part.
169. These articles commit the UK and the EU to use best endeavours to conclude an agreement capable of superseding the Protocol in whole or in part by the end of the implementation period. This creates a binding international obligation on both the UK and the EU to seek to reach an agreement that will mean the Protocol either does not apply, or applies only for a temporary period.
170. The temporary nature of the Protocol is reinforced by a review procedure. In the unlikely event of the Protocol needing to come into effect, if either the UK or the EU believe that it is no longer necessary to meet the objectives of the Protocol set out in Article 1(3), either party can unilaterally instigate a review. The Joint Committee will be obliged to consider the issue, having regard to all of the objectives of the Protocol, and can decide that the Protocol should cease to apply. Both parties will be obliged to act in good faith.
171. In the case of any disputes concerning either the obligation to use best endeavours to agree a future relationship that supersedes the Protocol, or the obligation to review whether the Protocol remains necessary in the light of its objectives, the dispute resolution process agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement will apply. This means that after the implementation period, dispute would be resolved by an independent arbitration panel.
OBJECTIVES AND SUBSEQUENT AGREEMENT (Articles 1-2)
POTENTIAL EXTENSION OF THE IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD (Article 3)...
172. This sets out the process if a potential extension of the implementation period beyond 31 December 2020 is sought. This article allows the UK, having had regard to progress made towards a subsequent agreement, to request, at any time before 1 July 2020, an extension of the implementation period. In a situation where the backstop may need to come into effect, for example if the full implementation of a future agreement to supersede the Protocol cannot be finalised by 31 December 2020, this article gives the UK a choice to either implement the backstop or to seek an extension of the implementation period, affording flexibility as to the appropriate course of action at the time.
POTENTIAL EXTENSION OF THE IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD (Article 3)
RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS AND COMMON TRAVEL AREA (Articles 4-5)...
173. Guarantees of equality and rights, which recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, are a fundamental part of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The UK Government has acknowledged that EU law, particularly on protection from discrimination, has formed part of the framework for delivering those guarantees. In recognition of this, in the December Joint Report the UK committed to ensuring that the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity provisions set out in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement chapter of the same name will not be diminished as a result of our withdrawal from the EU.
174. The continued operation of the Common Travel Area (CTA) and the protection of the associated rights and privileges enjoyed by British and Irish citizens when in the other’s state is also fundamental to the historic and enduring ties between our countries and our people. In the December Joint Report, the UK agreed with the EU that we would continue to make arrangements with Ireland relating to the CTA, respecting Ireland’s obligations.
175. The UK commits, in Article 4, to ensuring no diminution of the rights protected in the Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity chapter of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. This means that the UK will take steps to ensure that the rights and equalities protections in that chapter, and currently available to individuals in Northern Ireland, are not diminished as a result of UK Exit. The annex to this article contains reference to the six core EU anti-discrimination laws that are particularly relevant to the no diminution commitment - including, for example, provision on sectarian harassment. This reflects our acknowledgment that EU law has formed part of the framework providing for guarantees under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in this respect.
176. We have agreed to implement the no diminution commitment through a ‘dedicated mechanism’. It is intended that this mechanism will draw on the existing human rights and equality bodies established under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement - namely the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) and, on issues with an island of Ireland dimension, the Joint Committee - to provide independent oversight of the ‘no diminution’ commitment. The UK will confer upon NIHRC and ECNI new powers to monitor, supervise, advise and report on and enforce the commitment, as well as provide adequate resources to ensure that they are able to perform their enhanced roles effectively. The UK Government will continue to engage with both Commissions on issues relating to the dedicated mechanism.
177. Article 5 of the Protocol guarantees that the UK can continue to make arrangements with Ireland relating to the CTA. The UK and Ireland will be able to continue to guarantee the reciprocal rights of British and Irish citizens to reside, work, study and access social security and health services in the other state.
RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS AND COMMON TRAVEL AREA (Articles 4-5)
SINGLE CUSTOMS TERRITORY (Article 6)...
178. Article 6 sets out the provisions to establish a Single Customs Territory between the UK and the EU, and to ensure the free flow of goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
179. Article 6(1) creates a Single Customs Territory between the UK and the EU in the event that the Protocol comes in to force. This article is clear in providing that Northern Ireland will not be part of a separate customs territory to the rest of the United Kingdom.
180. Annexes 2 and 3 set out the core rules governing the single customs territory including, for example, the criteria for third country goods entering the territory. The text prohibits all customs duties and quantitative restrictions between the UK and the EU, and prohibits taxation on imports in excess of those applying to similar domestic products. These provisions are normal legal commitments within a Single Customs Territory to provide for reciprocal tariff-free and quota-free access to markets for goods.
181. The text reflects the UK’s commitment to align with the EU’s Common External Tariff, and with the Common Commercial Policy on trade in goods with third countries to the extent necessary give effect to these provisions. The text provides for the UK to remain within the EU’s trade defence regime for the duration of this Single Customs Territory regime.
182. The text also provides for the UK and the EU to cooperate on WTO matters to the extent necessary for the functioning of the single customs territory. The further detailed arrangements for the operation of the single customs territory are to be agreed by the Joint Committee by 1 July 2020. Annex 3 provides for administrative arrangements applying in the event that the Joint Committee has not adopted a decision on these operational matters, such as on: the nature of documentary evidence to prove entitlement to benefit from these arrangements; and administrative cooperation. Annex 3 comes into effect in the event that the Joint Committee does not set out other arrangements by 1 July 2020.
183. The rules governing the single customs territory do not automatically apply in respect of fishery and aquaculture products. These products would be included when a UK-EU Fisheries Agreement has been reached that includes arrangements on access to waters and fishing opportunities. Nothing in this Protocol prescribes the content of that fisheries agreement, and the UK as a whole will not be part of the Common Fisheries Policy.
184. The UK- EU single customs territory arrangement would guarantee that Northern Ireland would be in the same customs territory as Great Britain. This therefore ensures there are no tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin within the UK.
SINGLE CUSTOMS TERRITORY (Article 6)
OPEN AND FAIR COMPETITION (Article 12, Annex 4)...
185. Annex 4 sets out the requirements to maintain fair and open competition within the single customs territory, which are fundamental to all trading relationships.
186. The Annex includes a joint commitment by the UK and the EU to good governance on tax, with additional commitments by the UK to continue administrative cooperation and anti-tax avoidance practices, as they stand at the end of the implementation period. These are rules that have been agreed by unanimity while the UK has been a Member State. The UK and the EU have reaffirmed their commitments to curb harmful tax practices, and the UK has reaffirmed its commitment to the politically binding Code of Conduct on Business Taxation as it stands at the end of the implementation period. Disputes about this would not be subject to the Withdrawal Agreement arbitration mechanism.
187. In line with the UK’s strong domestic commitments to maintain high standards, the Annex includes a commitment by both the UK and the EU to prevent any reduction in the levels of environment and labour protections as they stand at the end of the implementation period, known as a non-regression provision, and to maintain existing international commitments in these areas. In terms of enforcement, the European Commission will ensure that the EU is upholding these commitments; and in the UK they will be enforced domestically. Disputes about these non-regression commitments will not be subject to the Withdrawal Agreement arbitration mechanism. In the case of competition, the Annex sets out the common principles that the UK and the EU will apply in their own territories, with enforcement in the UK undertaken by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
188. The Annex also includes a requirement for the UK to harmonise on an ongoing basis with the EU’s state aid rules, and for close cooperation between UK and EU regulators. For measures that affect trade between Great Britain and the EU, the CMA will be responsible for enforcement. As set out in Article 12 of the Protocol, for measures that affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU, the European Commission will be responsible for enforcement and will be required to keep the UK authorities fully and regularly informed.
OPEN AND FAIR COMPETITION (Article 12, Annex 4)
MOVEMENT OF GOODS BETWEEN NORTHERN IRELAND AND IRELAND (Article 6)...
189. The Protocol also addresses the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Article 6 sets out the basis to ensure that goods continue to be able to move freely across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, with businesses in Northern Ireland able to access the EU Single Market as a whole without restriction.
190. The Protocol includes a commitment by the UK to apply, in Northern Ireland, EU legislation on industrial, environmental and agricultural goods. This commitment on applying harmonised regulation is limited to those rules that are necessary to achieve the objectives of the Protocol as set out in Article 1(3).
191. The application of the Union Customs Code in Northern Ireland is necessary since the UCC covers all formalities before a good can be released for free circulation in the EU. These include all of the overarching requirements for regulatory compliance. Once a good has completed such formalities it can be considered a ‘Union good’ and in free circulation.
192. Northern Ireland will also apply a limited amount of EU law which includes relevant regulatory requirements for the movement of goods. The list of which regulations are included within the scope of this commitment is set out in Annex 5.
193. Only rules that are strictly necessary to avoid a hard border and protect North-South cooperation have been included in Annex 5. They constitute a small fraction of the single market rules that currently apply to the UK, representing a significant increase in the areas over which the UK Parliament or devolved institutions in Northern Ireland will be free to legislate.
194. Specifically, with regards to agricultural goods (Article 10), the regulations set out in Annex 5 to meet the objectives in 1(3) for these product are only those strictly necessary to avoid a hard border and protect North-South cooperation. This will mean that, for example, products of animal origin or live animals moving between Northern Ireland and Ireland will not have to undergo SPS checks and controls. It is also important to note that the majority of animal welfare regulations and wider Single Market regulations, such as the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, are excluded from the annex.
195. For goods that are currently not subject to harmonised EU technical requirements (i.e.“non-harmonised goods”), Northern Ireland will continue to apply UK rules. Non-harmonised goods manufactured in Northern Ireland that adhere to
the relevant UK rules will be able to access the UK internal market in a backstop scenario.
196. The practical operationalisation of such a regime, in the event that this ever came in to effect, would require further work and discussion between the UK and the EU, and would be informed by the overall relationship between the UK and the EU at that stage. But both parties agree on the principles that should underpin the operation and application of relevant rules. Further detail is provided in the accompanying technical explanatory note on the operation of this article, which has been agreed between the UK and EU.
MOVEMENT OF GOODS BETWEEN NORTHERN IRELAND AND IRELAND (Article 6)
PROTECTION OF THE UK INTERNAL MARKET (Article 7)...
197. The UK committed in December’s Joint Report to ensuring that Northern Ireland businesses would continue to enjoy the same unfettered access to the whole of the UK’s internal market. The Protocol recognises and protects that commitment, which will be given further effect domestically.
198. Article 7 recognises Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK’s internal market and confirms that nothing in the Protocol will prevent the UK from meeting its commitment to unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses.
199. The UK and the the EU are legally obliged under Article 7(2) to use their best endeavours to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In doing so, they must have regard to the regulatory regimes in place in both the UK and the UK and the EU. The UK and the EU will begin the period after the implementation period aligned with each other’s regulatory regimes concerning goods and that that fact can be reflected in the decisions to be taken on flexibilities in providing assurances for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The Joint Committee would be obliged to keep under review this obligation to facilitate trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with an express objective to avoid checks at the ports and airports of Northern Ireland.
200. Where a product’s origins must be indicated, the Protocol allows for versatile labelling of Northern Ireland products. Goods sold in Northern Ireland or in the EU products would be labelled as originating from Northern Ireland. In Great Britain, products could be labelled as either being from Northern Ireland or United Kingdom.
201. Articles 7 and 8 make provisions for the recognition of assessments, registrations, certification, approvals or authorisations granted by authorities in the UK and the EU. No EU approval process will be required to place Northern Ireland goods onto the UK market, and both EU and UK approvals will be recognised for goods to be sold throughout the UK. This means that Northern Ireland businesses placing goods on the market in both the EU and the rest of the UK will not have to go through two separate approvals processes.
202. Additionally registrations, certification, approvals or authorisations by UK authorities of Northern Ireland sites, installations or premises will remain valid. This means that, for example, physical inspections of a business premises will be carried out by UK bodies.
203. For Northern Ireland businesses, these provisions mean that they will only need to seek approvals or certifications once, and will be free to sell goods both in the EU and in the rest of the UK based on that single approval or certification. Businesses focused on the UK market would follow the approvals and certifications processes they do today, through the same UK bodies. Businesses facing the EU market and relying on EU approvals could continue to do so, while retaining full access to the UK internal market without additional new approvals burdens.
PROTECTION OF THE UK INTERNAL MARKET (Article 7)
VAT AND EXCISE (Article 9)...
204. Article 9 provides that certain EU VAT and excise rules will apply in Northern Ireland with respect to the movement of cross-border trade in goods.
205. However, Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s VAT area, with HMRC continuing to be responsible for the operation and collection of VAT, and Parliament for the setting of VAT rates, across the UK in line with the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Specifically, the UK will ensure that no registered business is required to pay VAT upfront when moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that accounting for VAT can continue to be done through postponed accounting and UK VAT returns.
VAT AND EXCISE (Article 9)
SINGLE ELECTRICITY MARKET (Article 11)...
206. The Northern Ireland electricity market is separate from the market in Great Britain. Northern Ireland shares a wholesale electricity market with Ireland, the Single Electricity Market (SEM). This is an example of North-South cooperation that has benefited consumers and the economies of both Northern Ireland and Ireland. The arrangement has been in place since 2007 and, while supported by domestic legislation, is underpinned by EU law. The Government therefore made clear from the outset of the negotiations that protecting the ongoing operation of the SEM is a key priority.
207. Article 11 of the Protocol ensures that a clear legal underpinning is provided for the SEM to ensure that it will continue to operate. The approach taken provides for alignment with only those rules (listed in Annex 7 to the Protocol) needed to ensure the SEM’s continued functioning of the SEM, linked to the governance of wholesale electricity markets, as well as relevant measures to ensure the same carbon price and emissions limits across the market.
SINGLE ELECTRICITY MARKET (Article 11)
NORTH-SOUTH COOPERATION (Article 13)...
208. North-South cooperation was the central focus of Strand II of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which committed the signatories to the creation of institutional arrangements for this purpose. This provided for the establishment of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC), which brings together representatives from the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on matters of mutual interest within the respective competences of those administrations. All decisions taken by the NSMC are by agreement of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government.
209. The December Joint Report commits the UK to “protecting and supporting continued North-South and East-West cooperation across the full range of political, economic, security, societal and agricultural contexts and frameworks of cooperation, including the continued operation of the North-South implementation bodies.” It recognised that North-South cooperation relies to a significant extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework. The December Joint Report also acknowledged that the UK’s departure from the EU gives rise to challenges to the maintenance and development of North-South cooperation.
210. Article 13 gives effect to the UK’s commitment on North-South cooperation, providing the basis for the UK and Ireland to “maintain the necessary conditions” for continued cooperation and also makes provision for the UK and Ireland to continue to make new arrangements to build on the provisions in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
211. The primary basis for ensuring the continued operation of North-South cooperation will be the devolution framework. The majority of areas of North-South cooperation are devolved matters in Northern Ireland, which will mean the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly will have full powers in those areas to maintain necessary conditions for cooperation to continue. This commitment on North-South cooperation will also be facilitated by existing arrangements - such as the CTA and funding projects.
NORTH-SOUTH COOPERATION (Article 13)
INSTITUTIONAL AND COMMON PROVISIONS (Articles 14-19)...
212. Articles 14 to 19 set out the framework for the legal effect, enforcement, interpretation and review of the Protocol. They establish the means by which the UK and the EU will engage and consult with each other to implement and apply the Protocol; the means by which the terms of the Protocol can be enforced; and the way in which disputes will be resolved.
213. Article 14 sets out that the primary responsibility for the implementation and application of law given effect by the Protocol lies with the authorities of the United Kingdom, but provides also for cooperation between UK authorities and EU representatives in the implementation and application of that law. The EU will have the right to obtain information and specified control measures.
214. In those limited areas where the Protocol applies EU law in Northern Ireland, EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies will exercise the same functions as now. This will mean, for example, that for a much narrower area of law than today, the European Commission will continue to supervise application of EU law under the Protocol. UK courts will apply this agreement in the same way they apply EU law today. For aspects of EU law applied by the Protocol, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) will remain the ultimate arbiter in this scenario.
215. This situation will last only until the Protocol is superseded by a future agreement or brought to an end through the review mechanism under Article 20. This would be the case for only five of the 21 articles of the Protocol, and one paragraph [Article 6(2) and Articles 8-12.]. All other areas of the Protocol will be subject to the governance arrangements of the wider Withdrawal Agreement, including dispute resolution by an independent arbitration panel.
216. Article 15 sets out the common provisions for the Protocol: those crosscutting provisions relevant to the legal effect, status and interpretation of the Protocol. If the backstop comes into effect, the wider provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement (including on legal effect, governance, enforcement and dispute resolution) will apply in respect of the Protocol. This means that the Protocol will have the same legal effect in the UK and be interpreted by UK courts according to the same interpretative principles and methodologies as in the EU.
217. It also means that the institutional architecture, such as the Joint Committee structure, and enforcement and dispute resolution system, such as provision for independent arbitration, will apply in respect of the Protocol as a core part of the Withdrawal Agreement, without prejudice to other provisions in the Protocol. In light of the role of the Court conferred by Article 14, Article 15 also provides for EU law to be given effect by the Protocol to be interpreted in conformity with judgments of the CJEU.
218. Article 15 also provides that where EU law is referred to by the Protocol, it is to be read as including amendments or replacements for that law. In practice, the extent to which amendments or replacements may be relevant for a temporary Protocol will be limited. There is also provision for the UK and the EU to jointly agree to include within the Protocol new areas of EU law, which do not replace or amend EU law already given effect by the Protocol. However, this would clearly require the agreement of both the UK and the EU as set out in the Protocol. The UK would ensure an appropriate role for the Northern Ireland Assembly, in line with our commitments, in this situation before agreeing to the addition of any new areas of Union law under the Protocol.
219. Article 15 also provides that while automatic UK access to EU networks, information systems or databases will not be continued by the application of the Protocol, full or partial access may be agreed to the extent necessary for the UK to comply with its obligations under the Protocol. UK authorities will not act as leading authorities for the EU in respect of risk assessments, examinations, approvals and authorisation procedures. This means that where EU law requires, for example, that goods have been certified or approved by a relevant authority, approvals of UK authorities will not be valid for this purpose. This does not affect the validity assessments, examinations, approvals or authorisations of UK bodies for goods in the UK market, including in Northern Ireland.
220. Article 15(8) provides that the protections against disclosure of information that could compromise national security, and provisions concerning cooperation where measures need to be taken in response to serious national emergencies, will also apply to the Protocol.
221. Article 16 and Article 17 set out specific forums for engagement between the UK and the EU on issues concerning the implementation of the Protocol. There will be a Specialised Committee, with representatives of both the UK and the the EU. Its functions will include facilitating the implementation and application of the Protocol and examining proposals made by bodies established by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement or issues raised by the bodies that will form the dedicated mechanism overseeing our commitment to no diminution of Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement rights. The Specialised Committee will report to the Joint Committee established under the Withdrawal Agreement, and can make recommendations to the Joint Committee.
222. In addition, there will be a joint consultative working group for the exchange of information and mutual consultation reporting to the Specialised Committee reporting to the Specialised Committee. This will be the forum in which the UK can be notified of planned new EU law which could be within scope of the Protocol and provided with information necessary to apply the Protocol. The UK and the the EU will be able to have consultations based on the information exchanged through the working group, and UK views must be communicated to the relevant EU body, agency or institution.
223. The text sets out that either the UK or the EU can unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures where the application of the Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties, or diversion of trade. Any safeguard measures must be proportionate and restricted to those necessary strictly necessary to remedy the difficulties. If the safeguard causes an imbalance in the rights or obligations under the Protocol, the other party can take rebalancing measures. These provisions are common in international obligations and are rarely used. Generally, where serious difficulties arise in other agreements, both parties would engage in consultations to jointly agree the best way forward. The detail of the notification and consultation requirements before safeguards can be applied are set out in Annex 10.
INSTITUTIONAL AND COMMON PROVISIONS (Articles 14-19)
What does the Protocol cover: