At the time of writing (11 November 2021), there remains significant uncertainty and tension regarding the potential triggering of Article 16 by the UK. Article 16 is a special measure that allows either the UK or the EU to take unilateral action if they believe the arrangements for Northern Ireland are causing serious economic harm. For months, the UK’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Lord Frost, has argued that the conditions and operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol are serious enough to warrant a triggering of Article 16.
How we got here
Earlier in the year, following the publication of the UK Command Paper which put forward recommended changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU had ruled out any renegotiation of the Protocol. Last month however, the EU published its response to the issues highlighted by the UK. The EU proposals contain some concessions and ways in which the current operations of the Northern Ireland Protocol could be amended with bespoke Northern Ireland-specific solutions, including reduced customs documentation.
Late into the second week of November there is continued speculation and media reporting that if talks fail the UK will trigger Article 16, meaning all aspects of the Protocol would be suspended.
Four weeks of talks have centred on the set of EU proposals designed to make the Protocol more manageable for citizens, businesses, and stakeholders in Northern Ireland.
Technical negotiators have, as always, been working to make sense of the challenges being faced by businesses and remedy them. However, political backing will be required to implement any changes. ADS understands that EU member states are aligned on the need for unity on this issue and that the UK Government is still considering when or whether to trigger Article 16.
Impact on ADS members
In practice, nothing has changed for the way businesses operate for now and they must continue to meet the requirements of the Northern Ireland Protocol. However, for ADS members who are in or trade with Northern Ireland, this ongoing uncertainty is not welcome.
Although the Northern Ireland Protocol is far from perfect, there are many elements that present opportunities for manufacturers and businesses in Northern Ireland who should have easier access to both UK and EU markets.
Both the UK and EU need to overcome political challenges to implement a solution that works for citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland. In the meantime, businesses can work on the practical and operational elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, as they have been for many months, including the full migration to the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) and the phased implementation of further import controls.
ADS members supporting other ADS members.
Several members based in Northern Ireland have been in touch with ADS and are offering to share experiences in navigating the new requirements.
Pinnacle Growth Group has a lot of experience in advising companies on the intricacies of using the Trader Support Service (TSS) and can also help SMEs to access funding from InterTradeIreland. Additionally, they can also help companies to access funding from Invest NI. To secure support and guidance from Pinnacle, members can contact Judith Neil, Head of Business Growth.
Similarly, ADS member Speedlink has been working to set up a team to handle the CDS requests. If any ADS members are struggling with CDS requests, they are invited to contact the Belfast team using the firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any other questions or concerns regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol or its implementation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.