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The Windsor Framework Agreement

New rules and labelling requirements for moving goods from the UK to NI.
6 mins


September 2023

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which applied on 1 January 2021, was established to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and to ensure the integrity of the EU’s Single Market for foods. However, the availability of foods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has been disrupted due to the application of EU customs and agrifood rules. On 27 February 2023, the UK Government and the EU negotiated a new approach in principle to address the solutions to address the practical challenges. The joint solutions cover areas such as customs, agri-food, medicines, VAT and excise.

These arrangements were adopted at the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 24 March. The implementation of the Framework will take place in stages into 2025.

The proposed changes to the NI Protocol are laid down in a UK Government Command Paper entitled ‘The Windsor Framework: A new way forward’ and a political declaration. The Framework will be implemented through a series of legal instruments, including non-legally binding decisions and recommendations, amendments to the Protocol itself and proposals to change EU law.

On 29 June, EU Regulation 2023/1231 was published setting out the rules on the Windsor Framework green lane for moving goods from UK nations to NI, most importantly outlining the requirement for ‘Not for EU’ labelling’. The implications of this are discussed below.

What are the main changes introduced by the Windsor Framework?

The most significant changes introduced by the Windsor Framework mean that goods destined to stay in Northern Ireland will go through a ‘Green Lane’ with fewer checks and controls and UK public health standards and consumer protection standards will apply. From 30 September 2023, a new UK Internal Market Scheme will expand the range of businesses able to benefit from the new arrangements, including removing EU tariffs. A single certificate will be required for transporting agri-food products in place of the multiple certificates previously required.

The scheme will not be limited solely to goods from GB or the EU. Goods from the rest-of-the-world can be moved in the scheme, either where they are processed in the UK, where they meet UK public health standards and pose no disease risks.

The deal recognises the importance of protecting the area on the island of Ireland and therefore certain high-risk meat and dairy products will be labelled on a phased approach.

What is the Retail Movement Scheme?

Defra published on 9 June 2023 a policy paper on the Retail Movement Scheme (ReMOS) established by the Windsor Framework which details how businesses can move ‘prepacked’ retail goods from Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) into Northern Ireland.

This scheme will apply from 1 October 2023 and will replace the existing Scheme for Temporary Agrifood Movements into Northern Ireland (STAMNI). Online registration launched on 1 September and further guidance has been published outlining the requirements for the general certificate. Goods will be moved based on a single General Certificate supported by a packing list. There will be a significant reduction in the level of visual identification checks compared to the existing 100% level of checks under STAMNI.

To avoid onward movements of goods into the EU, proportionate labelling requirements will be introduced on a phased basis from October 2023 – July 2025 (see below).

The Retail Movement Scheme will require some high-risk food products to be marked with the words ‘Not for EU’.

What products does this affect and when do I need to label?

Phase 1 – 1 October 2023

Initially, all prepacked meat, prepacked meat products, meat packed on sales premises and some dairy products (identified by commodity codes and including pasteurised milk, buttermilk or cream products, cottage cheese, quark cheese or raw (unprocessed) cheese, of any animal origin, crème fraiche and sour cream) moving from GB to Northern Ireland will need to be individually labelled.

Compound foods are also included in phase 1 if they contain one or more of the products in the phase 1 list, e.g., Chicken Kiev or Cheeseburger.

Phase 2 – 1 October 2024

In addition to phase 1 products, all milk, and dairy products, such as UHT milk and butter, moving to Northern Ireland under the scheme will need to be individually labelled. From this date all meat and dairy products sold in GB would also need to be individually labelled. Therefore, these products for sale in England, Scotland and Wales must be labelled with the words ‘Not for EU’. This is an expansion of the Windsor Framework requirement and will have implications for companies if they sell products outside the UK, ultimately requiring two different labels for the UK and one for other markets.

Phase 3 – 1 July 2025

From this date the additional products that will need to be individually labelled include pet food, fruit and vegetables, fish, and composite products such as pizza.

What about products already on the NI market?

To provide a transition period for products already on the market, there will be a 30- day transition period before the start of each phase so these products will be permitted to be sold during this period. Therefore, for food products moved into NI before 1 October 2023 they will not need to be individually labelled until 31 October 2023. For phase 2 products this will be 31 October 2024 and for phase 3 products this will be 31 July 2025.

When the transition period ends, products will need to be labelled with the statement ‘Not for the EU’.

Are there any exemptions?

There are some exemptions from individually labelling products with a ‘Not for EU’ statement. These include shelf-stable composite products such as olives stuffed with fish, confectionery and pasta not mixed or filled with meat products; products that don’t require certification or controls at agri-food points of official controls entry, such as processed vegetables, olive oil, nuts and seeds, cereals, sugar, and deregulated fruit such as pineapples, bananas, coconuts, and dates.

If a product is sold loose or by weight on the sales premises at the customers’ request or where a product is processed and sold on the sales premises by a retailer for direct consumption the products are exempt from the labelling requirement.

If a product is for sale in a canteen for eating on the spot, the labelling exemption also applies.

If the individual box isn’t labelled what is required?

From 1 October 2023, where individual ‘prepacked’ products are not labelled with ‘Not for EU’ the box or crate must be labelled and Northern Ireland retailer premises must ensure appropriate visibility in store to ensure it is clear to consumers that goods are not to be sold in the EU. A sign with the words ‘Not for EU’ must be placed next to the price tag or equivalent on the shelves. There must also be enough posters displayed visibly in the vicinity of the goods.

Further discussions will take place with retailers on the practical methods that can be used. Some practical examples are given in the UK Government guidance, so for example, if products are not stored in boxes or crates, shrink wrap could be labelled provided it is not removed until products are loaded at stores, or cages can be labelled. If a cage is labelled it must fully enclose the containers and must be wrapped with tape with the words ‘Not for EU’.

As the scheme moves into phases 2 and 3, boxes will no longer need to be labelled.

Will there be any financial help to meet the new labelling requirement?

The UK Government has announced that financial support will be provided to assist with the new labelling requirements in phase 1. You must ensure that all evidence is kept so payment can be paid retrospectively. More guidance will be provided in due course.

What’s Next?

The government will continue to work closely with traders as arrangements are developed. Sun will provide updates when any new guidance is published. As the scheme has implications for labelling, with the requirement to indicate ‘Not for EU’, businesses will need to consider where this wording will appear on pack to be easily visible, and this will have an impact on artwork design.

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