From 31 January 2024, certain goods coming from the EU to Great Britain – particularly fresh foods – will be subject to full Brexit border controls and checks for the first time, meaning extra paperwork, delays, and costs.
The UK government had previously delayed the new Brexit controls five times, concerned about the impact on British businesses.
Since Brexit, the EU already has border controls and checks for imports from Great Britain.
But this doesn’t affect Northern Ireland. Why? Because uniquely Northern Ireland is still in the EU’s Single Market for goods.
Following the Northern Ireland Protocol, amended by the Windsor Framework which came into effect on 1 October 2023, Northern Ireland exclusively enjoys full market access to both GB and the EU.
Whilst England, Scotland and Wales must endure Brexit border controls for goods exported to, and imported from the EU, those controls don’t apply to Northern Ireland.
Last February, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waxed lyrical about the benefits to Northern Ireland of being in the EU’s Single Market for goods.
Speaking at the Coca-Cola factory in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, Mr Sunak said his new post-Brexit deal put Northern Ireland in an “unbelievably special position”.
The Prime Minister said the new Windsor Framework meant creating “the world’s most exciting economic zone” with international companies “queuing up to invest” in the region.
Mr Sunak said the Windsor Framework means,
“Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position – unique position in the entire world, European continent – in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous… but also the European Union Single Market.”
“Nobody else has that. No one,” said Mr Sunak. “Only you guys: only here, and that is the prize.”
So enthusiastic was Mr Sunak in his talk to workers in Northern Ireland about the benefits of the EU Single Market that anyone would think he’s an ardent Remainer.
But of all the post-referendum Tory Prime Ministers, Mr Sunak is the most Brexity.
After his effervescent Single Market promotional talk in Northern Ireland, Downing Street was at pains to point out that his comments should not be seen as endorsing EU Single Market benefits for the whole of the UK.
The PM’s spokesman said the British people had made their decision in the referendum in 2016, but Northern Ireland needed access to both the UK and EU markets because of the Good Friday Agreement and “to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, which nobody wants to see.”
Can you spot the flaw?
Mr Sunak wildly enthusing about Single Market benefits for Northern Ireland, but not endorsing those same benefits for the rest of the UK, which must suffer detrimental barriers to trade with the EU, our biggest export and import market in the world.
This all goes to show that Brexit really is bonkers.
- 1-minute video: Why Brexit is bonkers: