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Under the terms of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland agreed between the EU and the UK as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland has a unique status. It is part of the UK’s customs territory but is subject to the EU’s customs code, VAT rules and single market rules for goods, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules to protect animal, plant and public health. The EU and the UK have disagreed over how to implement some of these rules, particularly for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Discussions between the two sides have been ongoing.

In July 2021, the UK Government published proposals for a “new balance” in the protocol. The EU has said it will continue to engage with the UK on practical solutions for implementing the protocol but that it will not renegotiate the protocol. Various grace periods that have allowed for delays in fully implementing aspects of the protocol are due to expire this autumn.

On 13 September 2021, the House of Lords is due to debate two committee reports about the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The first report, from the European Union Committee, was published in June 2020, before the protocol came into operation. The second, from the newly appointed European Affairs Committee and its sub-committee on the protocol, was published in July 2021, assessing the protocol’s impact in its first few months of operation.


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