Northern Ireland

UK Government Command Paper: What’s in the Donaldson deal?

Checks on goods coming from GB are required under the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
The Windsor Framework' green lane is to be replaced with a UK internal market system. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER

The British government’s command paper outlining the measures aimed at reducing trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain is, at some 80 pages, quite a hefty document.

It’s unashamedly branded ‘Safeguarding the Union’ in what is a clear effort to help Sir Jeffrey Donaldson win the support of his party and base.

There’s no shortage of window dressing, duplication and padding but it does include some substantive changes from the Windsor Framework, though accordingly they relate solely to the UK internal market.

Essentially the meat of the document is contained in three or four pages under the heading ‘Summary of New Package of Measures’.

Here’s a summary of that summary:

:: Legislation affirming Northern Ireland’s constitutional status underpinned by, among other provisions, the Acts of Union. The legislation will affirm parliament’s sovereignty over all matters in Northern Ireland and address concerns that the region’s constitutional position has been weakened by post-Brexit trading arrangements;

:: Legislation guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market by amending the UK Internal Market Act 2020. This will end exit procedures for goods travelling from the north to Britain;

The UK government's Safeguarding the Union command paper

:: Future-proofing the operation of UK internal market by preventing future agreements with the EU that would see the north align with the bloc’s laws and therefore create barriers to trade with Britain;

:: Amending the Withdrawal Act to ensure EU law doesn’t automatically apply in the north and is subject to the oversight of the assembly through the Stormont Brake. There ‘s also a commitment to publish operational arrangements for the Stormont Brake;

Cartoon showing Michelle O'Neill and Jeffrey Donaldson driving a car. Jeffrey is in some discomfort as Ian Paisley, Nigel Poots and Sammy Wilson angrily watch him
Ian Knox cartoon 31/1/24

:: Replacing the green lane with a UK internal market system governing the movement of goods which will remain within the UK, backed by new protections for historic trade flows. There will be no checks on goods moving within the UK internal market, apart from those designed to thwart criminal activity;

:: A commitment to remove the legal duties to have regard to the’all-island economy’;

:: Legislation to confirm Windsor Framework labelling requirements will apply across the UK;

:: Creation of a UK East-West Council, a new forum that will include representatives from business and education that will “identify opportunities for deepening connections” between the north and Britain;

:: Establishment of Intertrade UK, a new body to promote trade within the UK;

:: Various oversight mechanisms, monitoring panels and reviews to ensure trade is not restricted.