New trade rules for Northern Ireland : Safeguarding the Union

A new deal called ‘ Safeguarding the Union’ has just been sealed to restore power-sharing and a shared vision of a stable, certain future for Northern Ireland. One where its people and businesses are able to draw on the benefits of full membership of the United Kingdom and its internal market as an indivisible part of the UK’s economic union


As Northern Ireland shares a land border with an EU member state – the Republic of Ireland – Brexit has complicated trading relationships. Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal, the Windsor Framework, keeps it inside the EU’s single market for goods.

That prevented a post-Brexit trade border from having to be erected between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It meant the introduction of checks and controls at Northern Ireland’s ports on goods imported from GB – creating a trade border in the Irish Sea.

Given these challenges, the DUP had demanded changes to the way Northern Ireland trades with Great Britain to ease its concerns over post-Brexit rules and the Irish Sea border.

What’s the scoop on the “Safeguarding the Union” plan?

The “Safeguarding the Union” plan was published yesterday, addressing concerns over post-Brexit trade and Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. The 76-page agreement lays out several new measures aimed at simplifying domestic imports and encouraging trade between GB and NI.

Entitled Safeguarding the Union, the command paper was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris.

The deal comprises two main elements:

  • Changes to the Internal Market Act/Windsor Framework
  • Measures relating to Northern Ireland’s constitutional status

It guarantees the smooth flow of trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and therefore promises a seamless flow of goods within the UK internal market. Under the proposals, there will be no checks when goods move within the UK internal market system.

It also guarantees unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods to the rest of the UK on a permanent basis. This legislation stops the automatic adoption of EU law, affirming Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.

It proposes a new UK East-West Council to examine UK-wide business opportunities and challenges. That, in turn, will be overseen by a new public body, InterTrade UK, which aims to boost business opportunities and facilitate trade within the UK.

How Will Updated Irish Sea Border Checks Affect Your Business?

The government is streamlining checks and paperwork for goods moving from the rest of the UK into Northern Ireland. This means no more “routine” checks on GB goods intended to stay in Northern Ireland. These changes maximise flexibility under a previous EU/UK deal.

The UK government is also taking steps to ensure a smooth process for Northern Ireland goods to be sold in GB, emphasising a friendly and cooperative approach. The UK government is introducing pieces of legislation to ensure that Northern Ireland goods can be sold in GB in all circumstances and to affirm Northern Ireland’s cherished place in the UK.

What of ‘Not available in Northern Ireland’?

The DUP deal includes the establishment of a new body, Intertrade UK, to promote trade within the UK.

InterTrade UK’s role is to offer guidance to enhance trade between the UK’s regions, addressing challenges like the ‘Not available in Northern Ireland’ problem, a common concern for online shoppers trying to purchase goods from different parts of the UK. This deal aims to make shopping more convenient for everyone.

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