The EU has published its proposals for simplifying some aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The proposals were announced in broad terms at the end of June and subsequently shared with the UK government. They include a plan for ensuring the continued supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It also covers guide dogs, tagging of livestock, taking animals to agriculture shows in Great Britain and permitting the re-import of EU food products which have been stored in Great Britain.
Currently the way the protocol operates means that Northern Ireland animals which are taken to Great Britain for agricultural shows are required to stay there for six months before they can be brought home. The EU proposal would remove that requirement so long as the animals were not staying in Great Britain for more than 15 days and other animal health precautions are adhered to.
The second paper concerns the movement of medicines from Britain to Northern Ireland.
The protocol means Northern Ireland is still in the EU’s pharmaceutical regulatory system, unlike Britain. Northern Ireland gets most of its medicines from distributors in Great Britain, however that is due to become more difficult and expensive in January when a grace period ends. That has led some manufacturers to say it will no longer be commercially possible for them to sell some medicines in Northern Ireland.
The protocol envisioned that some regulatory compliance functions for Northern Ireland medicines would be carried out in Northern Ireland or the EU rather than Great Britain. But the commission now accepts that is a problem which needs to be overcome.
This morning a government spokesman said:
“The EU proposals represent only a small subset of the many difficulties caused by the way the protocol is operating. We need comprehensive and durable solutions if we are to avoid further disruption to everyday lives in Northern Ireland.”