1. Package of new measures announced

On 30 January 2024, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, announced that his party was ready to nominate members to the Northern Ireland executive, “subject to the binding commitments between the Democratic Unionist Party and the UK government being fully and faithfully delivered as agreed, including the tabling and passing of new legislative measures in Parliament”.[1] The restoration of Northern Ireland’s democratic institutions would bring to an end almost two years without a fully functioning executive, following the collapse of power-sharing in February 2022 over the DUP’s objections to the Northern Ireland Protocol/Windsor Framework.

On 31 January 2024, the government published a command paper, ‘Safeguarding the union’, which it said set out “a new package of proposals that look to fully protect Northern Ireland and its place in the union”. A summary of all the measures in the package is set out on pages 14 to 17 of the command paper.

The government said it was “committed to moving forward to implement this package, having regard to the timelines outlined in this command paper”. This would include making three pieces of secondary legislation, drafts of which were published alongside the command paper:

The first two statutory instruments are expected to be debated in the House of Commons on 1 February 2024 and in the House of Lords on 13 February 2024. The regulations require the approval of both Houses before they can become law.

The government has said that the Marking of Retail Goods Regulations 2024 are currently only in “indicative” draft form. It is intending to launch a public consultation on the draft on 2 February 2024.

2. Draft Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee decision on tariff rate quotas

On 30 January 2024, the government also published a ‘Draft decision of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee amending Joint Committee Decision No 1/2023’. Chris Heaton-Harris, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said this was a “joint UK-EU legal solution to cut tariffs for food imports to NI” by “enabl[ing] NI traders to benefit from our independent trade policy on key goods like New Zealand lamb and Australian beef”.[2] It would mean that imports of lamb, beef and poultry to Northern Ireland from third countries could be covered by the UK’s tariff rate quota regime.

The Council of the European Union would need to authorise the European Commission to agree to the decision formally on the EU’s behalf in the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee. Once formally adopted, the decision would amend the Windsor Framework. The European Commission has published further information about the draft decision:

3. Read more: Background information

The following documents and briefings provide further background information.

3.1  Agreement on the new package

3.2 Recent developments in Northern Ireland

3.3 Windsor Framework

3.4 Northern Ireland Protocol

Cover image by maddock1238 on Pixabay.


  1. DUP, ‘Statement by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’, 30 January 2024. Return to text
  2. Chris Heaton-Harris, ‘Personal X account’, 30 January 2024. Return to text