UK government reaches new trade milestone for Northern Ireland businesses

New arrangements ensure full benefits for traders

The UK and EU have today (16 May) ratified a new set of arrangements which will ensure Northern Ireland traders can fully benefit from the UK’s independent free trade policy.

The deal means over 13,000 tons of lamb, beef, and poultry including from key FTA partners such as Australia and New Zealand will now be covered by UK tariff rate quotas. This will significantly benefit Northern Ireland businesses, and further cements Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK.

The solution follows months of intensive engagement with businesses and is a significant milestone in implementing the Government’s commitments to Northern Ireland’s prosperity under the Safeguarding the Union command paper published in February this year. The new arrangements will be available alongside the new UK Internal Market system from 30 September 2024.

The new quota regime allows Northern Ireland’s businesses to access the same benefits and opportunities as the rest of the UK, while maintaining sufficient protection for farmers. It addresses a key problem with the old Protocol, where businesses exporting their goods could benefit from UK Free Trade Agreements but those importing higher tariff products like meat into Northern Ireland could not benefit from UK trading arrangements.

The agreement, reached in January 2024, has been welcomed by Northern Ireland agri-food industry groups including IMTA and NIMEA.

Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office Steve Baker said:

“This major milestone illustrates the UK Government’s commitment to maximising trade and opportunities for Northern Ireland’s businesses.

“This unique arrangement will mean NI importers will be able to benefit from UK Free Trade Agreements, further cementing Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. I look forward to our further work to safeguard the Union.”

The International Meat Trade Association said: 

“IMTA welcome today’s ratification of the Tariff Rate Quota solution for meat imports into Northern Ireland. We have long advocated for a solution to address this trade barrier and facilitate this crucial supply to NI. We look forward to understanding the details and collaborate with government and industry towards its effective implementation later this year.”

The deal was ratified by Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Vice President Maroš Šefčovič at today’s Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee in Brussels. Full guidance will be published in due course to ensure traders are ready to benefit from the new arrangements.

Today’s announcement is the latest example of the Government’s commitment to further cement Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

In March we established horticulture and veterinary medicines working groups to advise the government and work through any remaining issues, and both groups have now met twice. We have also successfully lifted the ban on the movement of common hazel trees and we are in active dialogue on lifting bans on a further five species such as sweet cherry.

Elsewhere, we held the inaugural meeting of the East-West Council on 26 March to discuss the main priorities for the Council’s work programme. Its aim is to strengthen cooperation between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK by advising on shared challenges and opportunities with an East-West dimension, such as trade promotion, culture and skills.

The Government is also providing  £150 million to develop an Enhanced Investment Zone in Northern Ireland to help businesses capitalize on its unique opportunities.

From: Northern Ireland Office and The Rt Hon Steve Baker MP