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Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023

Volume 832: debated on Tuesday 19 September 2023

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023.

Relevant document: 51st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument)

My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023, which were laid before the House on 4 September, be considered.

The purpose of the instrument before the Committee is to implement arrangements agreed under the Windsor Framework, which was announced by this Government in February this year. This framework fundamentally recasts the old Northern Ireland protocol to restore the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the union and address any concerns over a democratic deficit. Importantly, this instrument does not establish those arrangements themselves but provides Northern Irish authorities with the powers to ensure their proper functioning. This guarantees protection for Northern Irish consumers in line with that in the rest of the United Kingdom.

First, the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme establishes a new sustainable, long-term legal framework for trade in retail agri-food goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The new scheme will allow traders moving agri-food goods destined for the final consumer in Northern Ireland to benefit from a unique set of arrangements. These arrangements enable consignments to move based on a single certificate without routine physical checks. This will be on Great British public health, marketing and organics standards, as well as catch documentation requirements for certain species of fish.

In total, the Windsor Framework secures the disapplication of more than 60 EU regulations on goods moving to Northern Ireland via the scheme. The application of GB standards to these goods ensures a common approach across the UK. The scheme will be available to all such traders, including retailers, wholesalers, caterers and those providing food to public institutions such as schools and hospitals.

Secondly, the Northern Ireland plant health label regime will remove the requirement for plants for planting and used farming or forestry machinery to be accompanied by expensive phytosanitary certificates, costing businesses around £150 per movement. Instead, operators will be able to register and become authorised to issue and attach a Northern Ireland plant health label for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This will significantly reduce the costs for businesses moving these goods to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland plant health label is based on the existing UK plant passport regime, which controls plant health in the rest of the UK, ensuring freedom from pests. Previously banned seed potatoes will once again be available in Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK and will also move under the Northern Ireland plant health label scheme. Specifically, this instrument will allow for the sufficient, pragmatic and proportionate enforcement of key elements within these new schemes.

First, as agri-foods entering Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme can now meet the same public health, marketing and organic standards that apply elsewhere in the UK, relevant bodies in Northern Ireland need the powers to ensure compliance with these standards. This instrument ensures that existing Northern Ireland powers can be used in respect of goods that move under the scheme, including the ability to remove non-compliant goods from sale and to act against non-compliant businesses. Such powers are already in place in Northern Ireland in respect of EU standards; as such, this does not represent a widening of enforcement powers or additional responsibility for businesses. Importantly, this will ensure the continued protection of public health, consumer interests and food safety in Northern Ireland, guaranteeing that consumers in Northern Ireland will benefit from the same high standards as the rest of the United Kingdom.

This instrument provides the necessary enforcement powers to ensure compliance with the Northern Ireland plant health label regime, in line with what already exists in the rest of the UK. It affects only businesses that make use of this regime and is no more burdensome than it is for British businesses operating within the plant passport regime. This will ensure that authorities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are able to manage non-compliance with the Northern Ireland plant health label proportionately, utilising the existing domestic plant health enforcement regime. These measures are intended not to burden lawful traders but rather to create an equitable ground for businesses and protect the interests of consumers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As noble Lords would expect, these measures will have no impact on traders who abide by the relevant Great British standards for agri-food goods and the terms and conditions of the Northern Ireland plant health label scheme.

As we move forward with the Windsor Framework, let us not forget its profound implications for trade and the economy. This framework is an innovative solution. It removes the Irish Sea border for goods remaining in the UK and provides a stable legal foundation for trade, allowing everyday goods to move more easily, while adhering to the highest standards and protecting biosecurity on the island of Ireland. These new arrangements ensure that consumers in Northern Ireland can access goods that are available across other parts of the UK and that they are protected by the same high standards as consumers elsewhere in the UK.

I hope I have reassured your Lordships of the purposes and aims of this statutory instrument as a critical part of the Windsor Framework. I hope noble Lords agree that this is a positive step forward for businesses and consumers. I beg to move.

My Lords, the ostensible purpose of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 is to make provision for the enforcement of GB standards rather than EU ones in Northern Ireland with respect to public health, marketing and organic products. That sounds like a step forward in efforts to repatriate powers from the EU to the UK. For reasons that I hope to demonstrate, however, quite the opposite is the case.

These regulations can be understood only if read in tandem with the Windsor Framework (Plant Health) Regulations 2023 and the Windsor Framework (Retail Movement Scheme: Public Health, Marketing and Organic Product Standards and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations, to which they make repeated reference and which were also laid before Parliament the week before last. Furthermore, none of these regulations can be understood apart from Regulation (EU) 2023/1231 of the European Union—otherwise known as the “SPS regulation”—which was passed on 14 June this year and without which none of them make sense. That regulation is the sun around which the regulations we are considering today, and their fellow regulations, orbit, such that it is not possible to scrutinise and understand the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 without also understanding Regulation (EU) 2023/1231.

Before I comment further on the said EU regulation for the purpose of understanding the regulations before us today, I will first set out its centrality to these enforcement regulations. Regulation 3(2) of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 states that, in the regulations, reference to “the SPS Regulation” is a reference to EU Regulation 2023/1231. Meanwhile, Regulation 9(1)(b) of these enforcement regulations defines where the enforcement provisions fall, which is subject to

“Article 1(2) and Annex I to the SPS Regulation”.

Moreover, the regulations reference

“Northern Ireland plant health label”

42 times, defining the term on a basis that again takes us in two steps to Regulation (EU) 2023/1231. Regulation 3(2) of these regulations states that

“‘Northern Ireland plant health label’ has the meaning given in regulation 2 of the Windsor Framework (Plant Health) Regulations 2023”.

Regulation 2 of the Windsor Framework (Plant Health) Regulations 2023 defines “Northern Ireland plant health label” in turn by Regulation (EU) 2023/1231, stating that

“‘Northern Ireland plant health label’ has the meaning given to ‘plant health label’ in Article 2(22) of the SPS Regulation”.

Thus, central to the task of scrutinising and understanding the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 before us today is understanding the SPS regulation, namely Regulation (EU) 2023/1231.

Anyone who has believed government claims to have “got Brexit done” and “taken back control” will be rudely awoken from that particular fantasy by the experience of reading Regulation (EU) 2023/1231. Unlike those EU regulations that apply to Northern Ireland because they apply to the EU as a whole and thus to Northern Ireland, this regulation, which was passed in June, is curious because it applies narrowly and specifically to the Government of the United Kingdom and not to any other part of the EU—even though the legislation was supposedly made some years after Brexit for the UK by the EU legislature, now without any UK representation. Formally, it is designated as this:

“Regulation (EU) 2023/1231 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2023 on specific rules relating to the entry into Northern Ireland from other parts of the United Kingdom of certain consignments of retail goods, plants for planting, seed potatoes, machinery and certain vehicles operated for agricultural or forestry purposes, as well as non-commercial movements of certain pet animals into Northern Ireland”.

Although it is often said that the protocol/Windsor Framework has made Northern Ireland a vassal state of the EU, this legislation demonstrates that, in touching what people can do in the rest of the UK, there is a clear sense in which the vassal status to which we have been submitted impacts not only Northern Ireland but the whole United Kingdom.

EU regulation 2023/1231 makes provision for some goods to be subject to less exacting SPS border requirements than would otherwise obtain if traders submit to certain restrictions, which it is the purpose of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 to enable compliant traders to access.

Specifically, if those in the wider UK bringing goods to Northern Ireland are moving SPS retail goods to a confirmed Northern Ireland consumer with an address in Northern Ireland, and if those goods bear “Not for EU” labels—which are being phased in across a number of stages—and are subject to 10% to 5% identity checks at border control posts, and if the retailers in question have applied to join the trusted trader scheme and successfully obtained and kept trusted trader status, then, and only then, will they benefit from a simplified single SPS certificate.

The implications flowing from this are far reaching. First, contrary to the protestations of the Government, this is not unfettered access, which is the term used for free movement within a single market that, by definition, encounters neither a customs nor an SPS border, nor border control posts. So the first thing we must be clear about is that the alternative border arrangements that the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 help effect do not remove, in the words of the Prime Minister,

“any sense of border in the Irish Sea”.

What they do is facilitate an alternative border experience in which the regulations before us today play an enforcement role, but it is still a border experience—a border whose function is to uphold the integrity of the separate legal regime that now exists in Northern Ireland, which is the result of our disfranchisement. That is an important point that must never be forgotten. The border is not just a dreadful inconvenience with far-reaching negative economic consequences but the symbol of our disfranchisement and humiliation.

Indeed, the EU has not only gone to great lengths to impose its disfranchisement policy on us but, with the connivance of our own Government—who are supposed to protect and defend us through the “all for one, one for all” covenant that makes any body politic possible—rubbed salt in the wound by having the gall to suggest that, rather than being the source of acute embarrassment, the product of our disfranchisement, which is the different legal regime to which we are subjected, should be dignified such that it is deemed worthy of protection through the provision of a border, cutting our country in two, and upheld through the provision of border control posts.

Secondly, the alternative arrangements that it is the purpose of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 to enforce are not transferred to us that we can hold and claim them for ourselves. They are offered by the EU only subject to certain EU regulations that it polices and enforces. In this regard, the most important article of EU regulation 2023/1231, without which one cannot understand the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023, is article 14.

Article 14 defines where the power lies and where the buck really stops. In article 14(5), the EU reserves the right to remove the alternative arrangements and press for its full pound of flesh against the full international border that ultimately remains as in place under Windsor as under the protocol, at which point the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 will become irrelevant. It states:

“If the United Kingdom fails to comply with the conditions laid down in paragraph 1, point (c), or in paragraph 2, point (a) or (b), of this Article, the Commission shall adopt a delegated act in accordance with Article 17 to supplement this Regulation by suspending the application of Articles 4, 5, 6 and 9 to 12”.

In those 57 words, the true sovereignty implications of the Windsor Framework and the Windsor border are exposed and laid bare.

In that sense, anyone voting for the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 would effectively be saying: we will ask for alternative border arrangements even though we know that, in doing so, we not only accept the reality of the border in the alternative border arrangements, rather than the removal of any sense of border in the Irish Sea, but consent to an arrangement that has at its heart the right of the EU to, in the final analysis, press for the most destructive possible expression of the border and its right and freedom to operate politically on the basis of that reality.

In recognising that fact we must, of course, not forget that that would be in addition to the full destructive manifestation of the border that the EU is already insisting on from 1 October with the advent of the red lane. There is no green lane default safeguard here for the UK, only an EU default safeguard to 100% red lane arrangements. Thus, far from removing any sense of border in the Irish Sea, the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 authenticate and give life and credibility to an arrangement that cements in and makes permanent, as default, a full international border, cutting off Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Finally, I note in passing that, as well as being the subject of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023, enforcement is also completely central to the Windsor Framework (Retail Movement Scheme) Regulation 2023, Regulation 11 of which requires the competent authorities to assess goods coming into Northern Ireland on the basis of potential risks, such as disease. However, Regulation 11(2)(b) and (d) to (f) then bizarrely define risk in terms of capacity to conduct checks with respect to available staff and facilities. An enforcement requirement is thus made and effectively withdrawn in the same regulation on grounds of lack of capacity. Is this not a cynical device for encouraging people to conclude in the aftermath of 1 October that Windsor has been a lot less disruptive than usual because this will prevent us seeing what it is really like until July 2025 when the border control posts are ready? Have His Majesty’s Government discussed with the EU the implications of Regulation 11(2)(b) and (d) to (f) on the capacity of the border to meet both the demands of EU Regulation 2023/1231 and the demands of the red lane between 1 October 2023 and 31 July 2025? Have His Majesty’s Government been forced to give an assurance to the EU that Regulation 11 will be repealed, in whole or in part, on 1 August 2025 on completion of the border control posts at Larne, Warrenpoint, Foyle and Belfast?

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his presentation of these Windsor Framework regulations. I have to declare an interest as a member of two of your Lordships’ House’s committees, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the European Affairs Committee’s Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. Last week in the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee we considered these regulations.

I come to this debate as someone who supports the Windsor Framework and wants to see it implemented for the good of business development, so that people and businesses can avail themselves of access to the UK internal market and the EU single market. There needs to be a driver for that process. I note rather sadly that we do not have political institutions as per the Good Friday agreement up and running at the moment. I also note an indication on BBC Radio Ulster that the UK Government intend to drive on with the implementation, from their perspective, of the Windsor Framework. Can the Minister confirm that in summing up and whether that indicates that the Government have a little confidence in the resumption or restoration of political institutions?

Although I have indicated my support for the Windsor Framework, there are certain issues with the regulations, which were raised last week in our Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. There is a pattern across a lot of these SIs; there is a lack of a proper Explanatory Memorandum in some instances and of a proper impact assessment. The Explanatory Memorandum says:

“A De Minimis Assessment for this instrument has been completed”.

However, the advice given to our committee stated that there was a lack of a proper impact assessment. Maybe the Minister can advise us on why that was the case.

Can the Minister also indicate what consultation took place with stakeholders? We were told that there was consultation with businesses, but what businesses and how many, and who was consulted? I do not think the wider community would have taken part in this consultation. However, I talked to a business representative last Friday and they were most anxious that the simple detail was provided to businesses. When our protocol committee undertook our assessment and evidence-taking on the Windsor Framework in the spring and early summer of last year, and when we published our report at the end of July, there was a clear indication from all businesses that gave us evidence that there was a lack of detail regarding labelling and the implementation framework. That implementation framework enforcement is in these regulations, so it is sad to say that only some six to seven months later do we have the legislative framework. If that had been in place earlier, we would not have had the same level of complaints from the business community. We simply want to get on with proceedings.

Today in our protocol committee we were giving consideration to future short inquiries. One area where there has been a lack of information, and simply an extension of the grace period, is the whole area of the SPS agreement for veterinary medicines to the end of 2025. Can he say, as a Defra Minister, when there will be final negotiations and a final decision on that SPS agreement for veterinary medicines? After all, the agri-food industry is vital to Northern Ireland and our economy. I fully accept and agree with the point that, as regards animal health, Ireland is considered as a single epidemiological unit. I believe in the protection of food safety, so I want to see these regulations implemented as quickly as possible. It is sad that they were not available earlier in the year for businesses to answer their many queries on labelling and enforcement. Perhaps the Minister can also indicate when the permanent SPS infrastructure at the ports of Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint will be completed.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, with whom I have the pleasure to serve on the Northern Ireland protocol Select Committee, to which she referred. I endorse what she said about the need to get resolution on veterinary medicines. We heard evidence last week, from the Ulster Farmers Union and others, about the serious implications of the failure to resolve that issue. The indications coming out of Brussels are that it is not interested in a solution that would guarantee the continued flow of Great Britain vaccines and other medicines for veterinary purposes to Northern Ireland. I would like a timescale from the Minister of when he expects farmers and the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland to be reassured that that matter will be resolved so that they can continue to access British veterinary vaccines and other medicines in the same way that they do now.

Unlike the noble Baroness who just spoke, I do not regard the Windsor Framework/Northern Ireland protocol as a fair and balanced resolution to our problems with the free flow of trade between parts of the United Kingdom. This is very much a process that has protected certain parts of the Belfast agreement, as amended by the St Andrews agreement—namely, the north-south arrangement—but that has completely trashed the east-west relationship and the strand 1 relationship at Stormont. We can see that because there are no functioning institutions of strands 1, 2 or 3. People say that the Windsor Framework and the protocol are designed to protect the Belfast agreement, but show me the evidence of that. It has trashed the Belfast agreement and its institutions.

The Windsor Framework is now being implemented by a series of statutory instruments, through both negative and affirmative resolution. The noble Baroness referred to news reports about the Government taking further powers—that may well be. It sometimes makes you wonder why they talk about wanting to get the Assembly back so much, because all they do is keep taking powers from it and devolved Ministers. There is not much regard for the Sewel convention or any of that, and then they ask people to go back and administer less and less of what they should be administering. For vast swathes of our economy and the agri-food industry, no Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly of any party—unionist, nationalist or whatever—or any MP from Northern Ireland has any powers to make any laws in those areas. We are told that the Assembly must get back to administer Northern Ireland, but those powers have been taken away from Northern Ireland and from elected representatives in the other place and this House.

These are fundamental issues; they are not small matters but fundamental constitutional, political and economic issues. That is why we feel so strongly about these areas, and we will continue to expose a Government who claim to uphold the union but continue, as my noble friend Lord Morrow exposed in considerable detail, to implement EU laws over part of the United Kingdom. That is the nub of the problem.

This statutory instrument is one of those related to the Windsor Framework/Northern Ireland protocol, and it requires an affirmative vote in Parliament. The retail movement scheme statutory instrument, which was laid during the Summer Recess, is being implemented under the negative resolution procedure. Other important statutory instruments required to build the Irish Sea border and conform internal UK trade arrangements— I stress “internal”—with EU law are also being tabled by this Government under the negative resolution procedure.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has examined the regulations in front of us, as well as others. They are interlinked, as has been said, yet we have not been able to debate them—so far, that is; I am sure that we will find ways of getting them debated in due course. Up to now, the Government have not sought a debate on some of the most important regulations, including on the retail movement scheme itself. That is deeply regrettable.

Our party, the Democratic Unionist Party, made extensive submissions to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee; indeed, it was the only organisation to do so. I am glad that the committee has taken note of our concerns. It expressed concern about the lack of an impact assessment or even “basic information”, as it put it. It said that the absence of such information and the way in which secondary legislation is laid before Parliament are concerns that it has raised repeatedly.

This is not unique to delegated legislation. We as Members of your Lordships’ House have the same problem concerning basic information and factual answers all the time. The Government seem unable—or, perhaps more accurately, unwilling—to answer factual questions that are tabled through parliamentary Questions. Can the Minister explain in detail how he answers the criticisms of the committee?

The Explanatory Memorandum to the regulations that established the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme states that an impact assessment will be published in due course. Can the Minister tell the Committee today when that is likely to happen? The SLSC points out the fact that the retail movement scheme came into force during the parliamentary recess, denying Parliament the opportunity to form a view and expresses concern about the timetable. How does the Minister respond to that specific criticism?

As the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, said, there is a clear pattern of behaviour here. That needs to be called out. It is right that we hold the Government to account over not only the substance of what they are doing but the way in which they are doing it in the face of consistent, detailed, forensic criticism from your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. It is not good enough to continue simply to ignore that; the Government must answer.

In the Government’s view, these regulations, along with all the others that I have referred to, are necessary to build and erect an Irish Sea border between one part of the UK and the other. Anyone who claims otherwise is simply not looking at the facts. The Minister said—I think I picked him up right—that this removes the Irish Sea border. I ask the Minister and other noble Lords to read the report on the Windsor Framework from the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee, which we published earlier this summer and in which that idea is completely disproved. It is not the statement of any political party; it is the statement of a cross-party committee that consists of remainers, Brexiteers, unionists, nationals, Conservatives, DUP, Labour and Lib Dems. That is the report. I challenge the Minister to read it and then see whether he comes to the same conclusion.

The Government’s argument is essentially: “Well, it’s better than the original form of the protocol. You should be grateful and thankful for that and take it”. Of course, many people—including the SDLP, the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin, the Irish Government and many Members of your Lordships’ House—wanted to see the original implemented rigorously and argued that it should be even though all sides now acknowledge the damage that that would have done to Northern Ireland’s economy, politics and constitutional position. Now we have the same people urging us to accept the Windsor Framework, saying, “Well, it’s slightly better”. That argument does not wash with those of us who believe that as citizens of the United Kingdom, we are entitled to the same rights as everyone else in the United Kingdom.

It is not unfettered access that is being delivered. As my noble friend Lord Morrow said, this certainly does not deliver what the Prime Minister promised the people of Northern Ireland about doing away with any sense of a border. These regulations are being brought in not to implement a British Act of Parliament but to implement EU regulation 2023/1231.

Under the framework, it is the EU that dictates the law under which goods move from one part of the United Kingdom to another. Let us think about that for a moment. There is no democratic oversight or input into the development of such laws by anyone elected in Northern Ireland. Of course, the relevant EU law can be amended, changed or removed at any point, but only by the EU—I repeat: only by the EU. If the EU decides that it does not like the way that the so-called “green lane” is being operated, it can force everybody into the red lane.

The Government have of course failed to get any kind of reciprocal arrangement the other way. The new arrangement will result in trade diversion; indeed, it is already happening. The argument is that it would have been worse under the original protocol. That is not justification for the diversion which will undoubtedly take place. We have already heard from Tesco, for instance, about implications for it of this framework. Goods coming into Northern Ireland will now be examined to ensure they comply with GB standards.

Will the Minister explain whether goods produced in Northern Ireland itself for the Northern Ireland market, or for the GB market for that matter, can now be made, manufactured or produced so that they comply with UK or GB standards? Or, is it the case that they must meet EU standards while people importing from the rest of the United Kingdom do not have to, and therefore Northern Ireland businesses could become less competitive? I would like a clear answer to that because businesses in Northern Ireland are very interested in the costs of this regulation for them, which may not apply to their competitors.

On the issue of seed potatoes, can Minister tell us whether they can be sold to the public in retail outlets, such as garden centres and so on? Can the Minister tell us how many plants and species of trees remain banned? We have had a list of those that the Government have asked the EU to allow into Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister spell out in detail which will not be able to be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland?

It is important to say in conclusion that the Windsor Framework does not live up to the hype that the Prime Minister gave it when he launched earlier this year. As our report sets out, the key conclusion is that the Windsor Framework makes things worse for many businesses compared to what they have experienced until now because of the grace periods, derogations and so on. The original protocol was unworkable; it could not be implemented. That is what led to the grace periods and easements. Now they are being done away with and replaced with the full implementation of the Windsor Framework. It renders us worse off in respect of the Irish Sea border and creates greater checks and barriers to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom compared to what we have experienced thus far even if it theoretically—this is what the Government’s case rests on—improves the original, disastrous form of the protocol.

I am glad of the opportunity to debate these matters. I urge the Government to take on board the criticism of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and bring these matters for debate so that we can explore myth versus fact, law versus politics. Then we will have a proper understanding of what really is at stake for Northern Ireland.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my colleagues, my noble friends Lord Morrow and Lord Dodds, in this debate.

One way in which the constitutional importance of the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations before us today is evidenced is in the decision to describe the alternative standards that are, in some cases, to be enforced in Northern Ireland as GB standards rather than UK standards. If that is so, and standards are to be applied across the whole of the United Kingdom that currently operate only in GB, and which would have been applied to the UK as a whole had we left without a deal that sought to dismember our body politic, they become UK standards, not GB standards.

Why then does the Explanatory Memorandum on these enforcement regulations not designate them as UK standards? Instead, it states that the purpose of the regulations is to:

“Ensure that appropriate enforcement powers are in place for retail agri-food goods moved from GB to NI under the Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme, which meet GB public health and marketing standards … catch documentation”—

as the Minister has already quoted—

“requirements for certain species of fish, and organics standards (referred to as ‘relevant GB standards’) and are placed on the NI market”.

Given that the EU jealously guards its default right to press for its full pound of flesh against the default full border set out in Article 14 of EU Regulation 2023/1231 to which the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 are wholly submitted and without which they become entirely meaningless, the EU regulations need to remain in place, at least in some ways. They are not removed, just made non-binding for the duration of the EU’s pleasure. In that sense, the EU plainly does not want the standards to be made to sound entirely natural and thus properly permanent, so they are categorised as GB standards because it implies that even when governance standards are UK-wide, they are still somewhat foreign if they apply in Northern Ireland.

Moreover, this arrangement is also helpful to the Government as they seek to address the challenge of the border control posts under construction between now and July 2025. If the standards were described as UK standards, the use of border control posts for 10% to 5% identity checks and other risk-based checks would be like using border control posts within any part of this United Kingdom. By contrast, defining the relevant standards as GB standards makes the deployment of border control posts seem less controversial because it will enable the Government to claim that these border control posts should not be understood as border control posts in any normal sense as their purpose is actually to give effect to rather than undermine our sovereignty by simply imposing standards that arise from within the United Kingdom Government within the borders of the United Kingdom.

The Government may feel that this presentational approach is to their advantage as they seek to bow to EU demands to disrespect the territorial integrity of this United Kingdom. However, it is also to their disadvantage in creating a new impression that brings two difficult and embarrassing questions into focus.

The Explanatory Memorandum to these Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations is clear that the purpose of the application of GB standards is for protecting the biosecurity of the people of Northern Ireland. Specifically, it states:

“Part 3 of this instrument ensures that appropriate enforcement powers are also available in NI to protect NI consumers in cases where retail agri-food goods, moving from GB to NI under the Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme and placed on the NI market, do not comply with the relevant GB standards”.

The first difficult question arises from the fact that this suggested commitment to the biosecurity of the people of Northern Ireland is that it necessarily creates the basis for biosecurity within Great Britain because it implies that even while the goods have either been created in Great Britain or have come into Great Britain, we cannot be confident that they are to Great Britain standards. In making this assertion, the Government are admitting that the UK is failing its citizens living in Great Britain in a most basic way with respect to their biosecurity. That must be of huge concern to anyone living in Great Britain and to all the Members of this Committee and House who represent GB constituencies.

The second difficult question that arises from the Explanatory Memorandum is that if it is so important that we uphold GB biosecurity standards in Northern Ireland that we must spend millions in the provision of border control posts within the United Kingdom, why is it acceptable to have a completely open border to the south of Ireland, with another country entirely? In a context where the EU said to the UK, “Given that we cannot have a hard border across the island of Ireland, we must have checks on goods coming to the island of Ireland through Northern Ireland ports to EU standards, or standards that we are prepared to tolerate, in order to protect our biosecurity”, why did the UK Government not say, “Okay, but you must understand that if we are to accept that, we must obviously make equal and opposite demands so that all goods entering the island from ports in the Republic are checked to UK standards”?

If it is important to check goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain to Great Britain standards, where those standards should have already been enforced, why is it not equally important to protect the people of Northern Ireland from goods coming in from elsewhere to the same standard? The people living in Northern Ireland are the same people. They will not be damaged by goods that fail to meet GB standards if they come from Great Britain but are completely immune to the danger arising from the same goods travelling from somewhere else into Northern Ireland and failing to meet GB standards because they come from elsewhere.

It is completely wrong to seek to protect people in Northern Ireland to standards designated as Great Britain standards instead of UK standards. The idea that people within the United Kingdom need to be protected by standards existing within the United Kingdom through border control posts between one part of this United Kingdom and another is as absurd an application in the UK as it would be in any other state that had not embraced Alice in Wonderland politics.

How could the UK so lack self-belief that it readily turns itself into Alice in Wonderland at the behest of the EU? The humiliation of our body politic to the EU is surely now more pronounced than it ever was between 1973 and 2020, such is the Brexit deal humiliation to which the Government have subjected us. All this talk of enforcing GB standards in the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 really amounts to is an attempt to dress up the implication of what is actually being effected—a border that insults the intelligence not only of the people of Northern Ireland but of the people of the wider United Kingdom. If ever there were a Government to be weighed in the balance and found wanting, this is surely it.

My Lords, having listened to my noble friends, it is doubtful that these regulations are intra vires. They are tied umbilically to regulation 2023/1231, which, as we have seen, rather than removing the border down the Irish Sea, bestows on it an alternative set of border arrangements which, while in some ways are less demanding, remain border arrangements—and ones that, crucially, are predicated on Article 14, which gives the EU the default right to press its full rights against the border it has thrust across our country. The EU regulations consequently disrespect the territorial integrity and the essential state functions of the UK, both by dividing it with an international border and asserting the default right to control that border within our country.

This is a hugely important matter for the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023 because Article 1(2) of the protocol states:

“This Protocol respects the essential State functions and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom”.

It is made directly effective in UK law by Section 7A(l)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act, requiring that

“all such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the withdrawal agreement”

are applied.

How can Article 1(2) be applied if attempts are made to implement other parts of the protocol that have the effect of actively disrespecting the territorial integrity and essential state functions of the United Kingdom that it insists on respecting? I can see that, if the regulation-making power were for the purpose of giving effect to certain articles of the protocol and not others, this vires difficulty may not necessarily apply. But the regulation-making power simply references the protocol/Windsor Framework, which means that it must be taken as a whole. That means that any Act that purports to implement it cannot contradict any part of the protocol, including Articles 1 and 2.

Some might say that the power affords the Minister significant latitude. That may be the case, but the power is not a power to do anything; it is constrained by references to the protocol—now the Windsor Framework. Although the Minister may have freedom, this plainly does not extend to directly contradicting any part of the framework, which these regulations plainly do, in acting in direct opposition to Article 1(2).

The Windsor Framework enforcement regulations are also problematic because, unlike most forms of legislation that do not have an impact until they formally come into effect, businesses have been busily restructuring in preparation for the regulations, as part of the retail movement scheme—first announced as the green lane in February. For some months, Asda has started to use “not for EU” labels. This means that, unusually, we can already see something of the effect of these regulations. Moreover, their actual consequence has been plain to see since 14 June, if not before, when the EU regulation 2023/1231, to which they relate and without which they make no sense, came into effect.

Many businesses have made it clear that relying on the retail movement scheme and its enforcement mechanism, as set out in these regulations, is too complicated, and it is too expensive for the retail movement scheme to simply take over from the old and very light-touch scheme for temporary agri-food movements to Northern Ireland—STAMNI—which it replaces, such that supermarkets can continue to function on the basis of the old GB-NI supply chains that attended and defined what was the UK single market for goods until the end of 31 December 2020, giving effect to UK economic nationality.

In this context, big supermarkets I have already referred to, such as Tesco, have been restructuring their supply chains to move as much as possible of what previously came from Great Britain to Northern Ireland so that, after 1 October, it comes from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. One might respond to this by arguing that, to the extent that these regulations apply GB regulations, their enforcement component cannot have a trade diversionary effect. There are two difficulties with this assertion. In the first instance, to the extent that the deployment of these standards is through an SPS certificate—in relation to which one must have an export number and have obtained and kept membership of the trusted trader scheme, negotiated a border control post and provided “not for EU” labels—this all amounts to costs that do not apply to goods movements in other parts of the United Kingdom. This is an increased cost compared to STAMNI.

In the second instance, the impact of the retail movement scheme in terms of enforcement regulations does not simply determine where GB regulations apply. It also determines, by implication, where they cannot apply and where EU regulations, the presence of which was obscured by STAMNI, will now take effect.

The trade diversionary implications of preparing for the Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023, and thus EU regulation 2023/1231, without which it and the other retail movement scheme legislation makes no sense, was brought home with particular clarity in the case of Tesco, through a slide at a recent presentation to retailers. The heading was:

“Packaged Food approach. For products currently moving from GB to NI”.

It said that, under the retail movement scheme, it would be important to restructure to get as many of these goods as possible from the Republic of Ireland to avoid the green and red lanes. Under the heading “Ireland Supply Routes”, the slide said:

“1. More Direct from the EU. 2. Move all common products from the ROI to NI stores. 3. Align some range with the ROI range”.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there will be no use of the green lane but rather that, together with the red lane, the green lane, as defined by various SIs published since August, including the Windsor Framework regulations, is already driving trade diversions. The fact that one can already see that trade diversion is the straightforward result of replacing STAMNI with the retail movement scheme facilitated by the Windsor Framework enforcement regulations, even before they formally come into effect. It demonstrates that, rather than fixing the problem with the Northern Ireland protocol/Windsor Framework, these Windsor Framework regulations have actually helped to call it out, in terms that were always recognised as fatally problematic by the drafters of the protocol/Windsor Framework, such that they justify derogation from it.

Article 16 of the protocol, which is directly effective in UK law, and which many Members of the House of Lords criticised the Government for not triggering ahead of introducing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, represents the mechanism to use if the protocol is failing. Failure is defined by Article 16 in the following terms:

“If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol”.

The interesting thing about the form of words employed here by the drafters is that the diversion of trade is recognised to be such a serious matter that, even if it does not lead to

“serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist”,

Article 16 can still be triggered, just because it results in a diversion of trade.

Of course, that is not at all surprising, because trade flows that are definitive of a single market are definitive of the economic nationality that underpins the modern nation state. As such, they are of an entirely different constitutional effect to trade flows between economies. They could not be cut away without shaking the very foundation of the polity in question. The trade diversionary implications of the retail movement scheme, as evidenced by Tesco’s presentation, have had a clear impact on the haulage sector, which has experienced a significant reduction in goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland since the announcement of Windsor, and the replacement of STAMNI with the retail movement scheme that it is the purpose of these regulations to implement.

Following the reduction in the operations of another haulage company servicing the UK market, Americold, the recent announcement that Morgan McLernon—it is the Northern Ireland wing of Culina, the largest UK-wide haulier of chilled and ambient products, the business of which is defined in UK terms—is to be closed, which the management blamed specifically on the implications of Brexit, provided a real-life demonstration of the reality of trade diversion, which the announcement of the replacement of the STAMNI scheme with the retail movement scheme through these regulations has accelerated. If the Government persist with these regulations, the trade diversion that they are creating will make it very difficult for them not to trigger Article 16. The Government should abandon the regulations and keep the STAMNI scheme in place.

When challenged on this point, the only defence that the Government have given is that the trade diversion resulting from the Windsor Framework, which it is the purpose of these regulations partly to effect, will be less than under the protocol. There are two difficulties with this defence. First, it does not deal with the central difficulty: Article 16 does not afford a basis for derogation if trade diversion is worse than that caused by the Windsor Framework, but simply on the basis of trade diversion. Secondly, the Government’s assertion that trade diversion under the Windsor Framework will be less than under the protocol is in any event deeply problematic. In truth, the protocol was completely unimplementable and would have caused supply chains to crash, generating a political crisis that would have, within the space of a few days, completely destroyed the credibility of the protocol such that it would have had to be abandoned and replaced with an honourable arrangement respecting the territorial integrity of the UK. Thus, its capacity to generate greater trade diversion than the Windsor Framework was entirely theoretical because it could never have lasted long enough really to create trade diversion.

Today, we need to decide whether the UK body politic is worth preserving and celebrating. I passionately believe that it is. I will certainly oppose the regulations.

Finally, can the Minister say when the European Union will inspect the border control posts to confirm that they are to its satisfaction in order for the green lane to commence on 1 October?

My Lords, the regulations in front of us today deal with one specific aspect—a major aspect—of the Windsor Framework but, in another way, they are symptomatic of the wider problems in terms of the Government’s presentation of the Windsor Framework and the substance of the framework.

Turning first to the Government’s presentation, we have had a plethora of spin since the signing of the Windsor Framework. Indeed, when the England one-day international squad was announced the other day, I was surprised that, given the amount of spin, no government Minister had made it into the final 15. We saw at the time of the Windsor Framework the presentation of a veritable utopia for Northern Ireland. We were very much getting the best of both worlds. Some of that has been echoed by some of the phrases that have been mentioned today. There was no direct reference to unfettered access but we were told that this would create smooth access between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was reiterated that it would remove the Irish Sea border—that was quoted by my noble friend Lord Dodds and I think I am accurately quoting what was said by the Minister today—and that we would have a situation in which there was a common approach to trade across the whole of the United Kingdom. All those things are a level of spin.

The best that can be said in relation to some of the proposals is that, in certain aspects, they may not be quite as bad as the protocol. However, let me draw on an analogy from my own life. About two years ago, roughly speaking, I underwent surgery. There was a certain level of uncertainty going into that surgery and I ended up with a toe being amputated. When I came round, I was ultimately glad that it was not two toes or a foot that had been amputated—what actually happened was clearly preferable to that situation. Was it analogous to the position that I had been in prior to that, with 10 toes? No, it was not. It certainly was not the best of both worlds, seen as some great leap forward. So it is with the regulations in front of us today.

We are told that this measure creates smooth access, and on other occasions unfettered access, with the rest of the United Kingdom—that is, it removes the Irish Sea border. However, as my colleagues have indicated, at best it can be said that it creates an alternative form of border in the Irish Sea. On the reality, let us again take one of the things said by the Minister: that it was a common approach across the United Kingdom. The analogy that was drawn in the Government’s Command Paper at the time of the Windsor Framework was that this would be the same type of paperwork as if you were transporting something from Southampton to the Isle of Wight.

However, anybody who takes a look at the regulations in detail will see, as has been indicated, that there will be SPS forms and an export number will be given. There will be border control posts and there will be a requirement that anybody who is looking to transport goods through this provision will have to be part of a trusted trader scheme. Indeed, if they fall foul of that, they could be excluded from that trusted trader scheme. I ask this genuinely: is this supposed to create a similar position and a common approach across the United Kingdom? Is that the case if we are transporting goods from Glasgow to Carlisle or from Southampton to the Isle of Wight? It is patently not the case. If the Government were to show at least a little bit of honesty and were to say that this is not the same level of burden as would be there under the original protocol, they could make that argument—but that is not what they have been saying and what they are saying is not the reality of the situation.

Similarly, as indicated by my noble friend Lord Dodds, what we have here—we should remember this specific aspect—is not about goods that are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to the European Union and to the single market. It is not even about goods that are deemed as being at risk of going into the European Union; then, at least, we could see some reasons for the levels of checks. This is specifically about goods of which it has to be proved that their end destination is within the United Kingdom, yet we have all these new burdens that have been put in place. There is a situation, as was indicated and outlined by my noble friend Lord Morrow, where this is in effect permitted to happen only at the grace and favour of the European Union. What if something that is entirely internal to the United Kingdom should be felt by the European Union not to be working or is in some way not acceptable to it? It could be withdrawn at a later stage on that basis.

Similarly, in terms of the practical realities, it is understandable that my colleagues and I will be deeply exercised about some of the wider constitutional implications of this. However, as has been highlighted by a number of colleagues, this also has deeply practical implications for trade. Mention has been made of the Tesco situation—I suspect that that will not be a unique situation—where the additional burdens that have been put in place by these regulations will lead to a direct divergence of trade. This is not some sort of ghost in the machine or empty threat; it is beginning to happen in reality, as we have seen. It is beginning to happen in reality with regard to haulage firms, where there is that divergence of trade. The reality is that, if you have a large company such as Tesco and if the supply chain is coming from the Republic of Ireland and other parts of the EU, it is a much better way of bringing goods into Northern Ireland. How much more difficult will it be for small and medium-sized firms, which are faced with the same level of bureaucracy but are not generating the same volume of trade? It is actually a much easier route.

That has implications for Northern Ireland, but it also—and this has been somewhat overlooked—has major implications for Great Britain too. If it is felt that accessing goods from the Republic of Ireland is an awful lot easier than accessing them from Great Britain, that will mean that British firms within mainland Great Britain will miss out on trade to Northern Ireland. It will have an economic impact for them as well.

Finally, on the concerns over these regulations, it has been highlighted by the committee that deep concerns have been raised in relation to process in terms of the way that this legislation has been brought forward. Mention has been made of the fact it was laid in the summer at a time when Parliament was not sitting, so there are issues around timing. There are issues around consultation, which does not seem particularly transparent at the very least. If we are most generous and say that there has been some level of consultation, none of us are particularly aware of what consultation has taken place. We are told that at some point in the future there may well be an impact assessment, but it has not been brought forward.

If it was one of those three things, that could perhaps be overlooked, but the combination of all three leads to only one of two conclusions or indeed to a combination of both. Either the Government in their approach to these regulations have been utterly disrespectful to Parliament in disregarding proper parliamentary process, or alternatively, by avoiding an impact assessment and minimising consultation by putting it out at a time when there is not the level of scrutiny, the Government seem to be sending out a signal that they are not particularly comfortable with close examination and scrutiny of these regulations because it would be seen that what is being put forward does not match up to what is there on the tin and what was said in the first few days of the Windsor Framework.

In terms of a positive way forward, it must surely be that the Government need to continue discussions to produce solutions which deliver what they said they were putting forward a number of months ago. That does not seem to be an unreasonable request from politicians in Northern Ireland—the effective removal of the Irish sea border. Similarly, the Government need to find political solutions which both communities can buy into because it is abundantly clear that what is there through these regulations and the wider political context is not bought into by the Unionist community within Northern Ireland.

By contrast, that is the positive way forward and the route which I urge the Government to take. This is why it is concerning—and we know that a lot of games will be played around this—that there is talk of the Government simply jumping in and imposing solutions which simply disregard where Unionist opinion, and indeed wider opinion within Northern Ireland, lies. That is a route of madness, and we need, as we have seen throughout decades in Northern Ireland and perhaps learned to our cost, to get solutions to which there is buy-in by both communities.

The Government are in danger of repeating the phrase that was used about the Bourbons: that ultimately they forgot nothing, and they learned nothing. Let us not see the Government go down that route. Even at this eleventh hour, they should start taking actions which respect all opinion within Northern Ireland and the integrity of trade within the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, has set out the rationale for this SI. Others have contributed to the debate and given a less enthusiastic reception, to say the least. I regret that my knowledge of the history and the subject matter is far less than that of those sitting opposite me. It would be churlish to suggest that if we had not left the EU, we would not be debating this SI this afternoon. However, this SI will be an improvement for Northern Ireland on the bureaucratic regulations it is currently operating under, although I accept that others will not agree with this.

The Windsor Framework will create the new Northern Ireland retail movement scheme, which will enable consignments to move around on the basis of a single certificate, without routine physical checks and on the basis of GB public health, marketing and organics standards. This will apply to agri-foods, wholesalers, caterers, et cetera, including those supplying food to public institutions, such as hospitals and schools. All this seems good to me.

In the past in Grand Committee, we have debated plant health certificates and sanitary and phytosanitary passports for plants. The Windsor Framework will establish a Northern Ireland plant health label, which will be known as the NIPHL, removing the need for plants to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. This will be replaced by operators registering as a relevant competent authority to issue an NIPHL attached to the goods, allowing them to be moved from GB to Northern Ireland—this is a cheaper option. Seed potatoes, previously banned, will again be available in Northern Ireland. I remember well the previous seed potato- ban SI.

I note that the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme applies to fisheries regulations and catch documentation requirements for certain species of fish. Can the Minister please give a little more information on exactly which species of fish are affected by this regulation and in what way?

As well as plant movements, the SI will allow the movement of vehicles and machinery operating for agriculture and forestry purposes to be covered by the NIPHL scheme. Under the EU, the SPS—sanitary and phytosanitary—regulation disapplies some provisions in relation to retail agri-food goods moving into Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the regulations subject to disapplication are set out under annexe 1 of the SPS regulation. However, I could not find any reference to the detail of this. Perhaps it does not have any material influence on this SI.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised concerns over the laying of the statutory instrument during Recess, which I also find regrettable. Part 2 of the SI lists the detailed offences that the regulations cover. This list is extensive and hopefully inclusive. I could go on at length extolling the benefits of this SI in terms of the lifting of some of the burdens of legislation from Northern Ireland and enabling its trading arrangements to operate on a less bureaucratic basis. Generally, the measures covered in the SI are good and should be welcomed.

Paragraph 12.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that a de minimis assessment has been completed—the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, referred to this. The costs to businesses from the instrument are below the de minimis threshold. Since this work has been conducted in order to ascertain that the de minimis has not been reached, can the Minister say just how much the costs for businesses will be, even if this is below the de minimis threshold? The absence of an IA is regrettable but not surprising.

The Windsor Framework improves trade in Northern Ireland and, on that basis, it should be welcomed. Despite everything that has been said, I welcome this statutory instrument, but, given the grave concerns of DUP Members, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, this has been a genuinely fascinating debate and, as ever, shows the complex nature of every issue when we look to our post-Brexit environment. I thank the Minister for his overview of this statutory instrument and for the correspondence I received from his fellow Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe.

This legislation is vital to the implementation of the Windsor Framework and, as His Majesty’s Opposition made clear in the other place, we support a negotiated outcome with the European Union. For the avoidance of doubt, while the Labour Party does not believe that the Windsor Framework is perfect, we do believe it is a substantial improvement on what came before.

His Majesty’s Opposition supported this instrument when a vote was called in the Commons. Again, this was not a wholehearted endorsement of what the Government have achieved—as we have heard today, important gaps remain—but a reflection of our belief that these issues must be resolved through negotiation rather than threats or unilateral action.

This is why I am so grateful to members of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, including my noble friend Lady Ritchie, for their reflections on the recent set of Windsor Framework SIs, and for consistently considering the views of colleagues with divergent opinions. As well as key stakeholders, different organisations and political parties may reach varying conclusions on the Windsor Framework, but we should all be able to feed these into the process and have our views heard.

The Windsor Framework was announced in February and many of the changes within it will be operational in just a couple of weeks, so it is concerning that these instruments have been brought forward for consideration only in this short September sitting. I fear that this is something of a pattern, not just in relation to the Windsor Framework but more generally in the tabling of SIs. Can the Minister advise on why this process has been so delayed in both Houses?

In the debate in another place, my right honourable friend and colleague Hilary Benn asked a number of questions and Minister Spencer committed to following up on a number of points in writing. Does the Minister have a copy of this correspondence, and does he wish to read any of its contents into the record? If it has not yet been sent, can participants in this debate be included in the correspondence?

Northern Irish consumers will soon enjoy access to a greater number of goods than was possible under the old protocol. The lifting of restrictions on seed potatoes and certain pre-packed meat products is especially welcome as that is important for farmers and producers on both sides of the Irish Sea. But it is important to note that restrictions remain on some items, including a number of shrubs and trees, many of which are still under review, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dodds. Can the Minister update us on the timing of the review and when we can expect additional trees and shrubs to be added to the green lane?

This instrument deals with enforcement powers, aiming to provide what paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum describes as

“the pragmatic and proportionate enforcement of GB public health, marketing and organics standards in NI for goods moved”

under the new schemes. His Majesty’s Government insist that there will be

“no impact on traders who abide by the terms and conditions and regulations that govern the scheme”.

Does the Minister really endorse that statement? There may be no enforcement impact, but there is a practical impact on businesses, which have to adjust to new procedures as well as covering new and different costs.

Also, as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee notes and as my noble friend Lady Ritchie raised, there has been no formal consultation on these measures, although there has been informal engagement with a range of stakeholders. Given the lack of formal consultation prior to the changes, can the Minister confirm whether there will be any post-implementation review? If so, when? How will that process work?

It is imperative for us all to make this work. While we support the negotiated settlement reached earlier this year and hope it will lead to a marked improvement in the experiences of Northern Ireland businesses and consumers, I sincerely hope that, moving forward, whether on the Windsor Framework or other issues, His Majesty’s Government will make a renewed effort to work with parties and communities in Northern Ireland, rather than imposing policy on them. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. A number of questions have been asked; I will endeavour to answer them all. I will start by answering the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, just raised. We want power-sharing to restart and decisions about the lives of people and businesses in Northern Ireland to be taken by people in Northern Ireland. We really do want to see that happen as soon as possible, of course.

I will tackle the points more or less as they were raised, but I apologise if I mix them all up. The Windsor Framework achieves a long-standing UK government objective to restore the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market by pursuing a green lane for the movement of goods from GB to Northern Ireland, supporting Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. It restores the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market by removing the unnecessary burdens that have disrupted east-west trade. At the same time, the Windsor Framework recognises the need to protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, pointed out, has been treated as a single epidemiological unit for decades. It is the case that some checks, such as those on live animals, were required from GB to Northern Ireland prior to EU exit and before the old Northern Ireland protocol was implemented to protect the integrity of this single epidemiological unit. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, that this is about achieving unfettered access for Northern Ireland to Great Britain in trade terms, but this SI is about Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

A number of noble Lords asked about the practical consequences, so let us discuss what would happen if this SI were not taking place or if it were not approved by Parliament. The consequences would be the UK failing to comply with its legal duties and international obligations under the Windsor Framework. This statutory instrument forms part of the Defra Windsor Framework legislation that must be in force by 1 October 2023. It is therefore also required to establish, maintain and support the arrangements agreed under the Windsor Framework.

Specifically, this SI in Defra’s legislative package is required to enable the necessary enforcement of GB standards for goods moving under the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme when placed on the market in Northern Ireland. To protect public health and ensure food safety in Northern Ireland, authorities in Northern Ireland will be able to check and remove non-compliant goods from sale. That will ensure that consumers in Northern Ireland are protected by the same high standards as those in Great Britain. The risk of not proceeding would be insufficient public health and food safety protections for consumers in Northern Ireland, meaning that Northern Ireland consumers were less well protected than those elsewhere in the United Kingdom, severely undermining consumer confidence in the Northern Ireland food system. That risk is significant, and any non-legislative alternatives fall short of addressing it.

Is the Minister implying that until the moment when the checks will be done, Northern Ireland has been at grave risk for many decades as GB goods and agri-food produce flowed into Northern Ireland? Is he saying that for all those years we were at terrible risk?

No, of course not, but we want to have the same measures in place in Northern Ireland that people in Great Britain have. It will also ensure that for certain plants and other objects, which I have already discussed, moving from GB to Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland plant health label scheme sufficient enforcement powers are available in GB and Northern Ireland. Without those enforcement powers, there would be a risk that biosecurity concerns related to non-compliance with the Northern Ireland plant health label scheme would be insufficiently addressed.

Consultation was raised by a number of noble Lords. Due to the timescales for the introduction of this statutory instrument, as conferred by the legal text of the Windsor Framework, to which the UK is a committed signatory, and the urgency of ensuring effective enforcement provisions are in place, it has not been possible to consult on this document. However, the arrangements agreed under the Windsor Framework are based on extensive engagement with industry and stakeholders in Northern Ireland over the past two years.

Defra continues to engage with businesses through regular forums, including the weekly NI-GB Food Supply Chain Forum, frequently attended by over 200 representatives of organisations across the supply chain, alongside ad hoc engagement. In addition, we have published detailed guidance regarding the Northern Ireland retail movement scheme online and are running a series of training sessions for businesses on how to move goods under the Windsor Framework arrangements. We responded to concerns that were raised through this process and we continue to have engagement with businesses, including sharing early versions of guidance with key retailers and consulting businesses wherever flexibilities regarding the scheme, or pragmatic solutions to challenges, are forthcoming. We continue to build our offer to businesses, including: running a fortnightly whole supply chain forum that is regularly attended; a weekly engagement call with retailers; weekly webinars; training sessions; guidance published on GOV.UK; the circulation and regular iteration of a new frequently asked questions document; a dedicated inbox traders can direct their questions to; and, as I say, more engagement besides.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and a number of others talked about the impact assessment. A de minimis assessment has been completed for this statutory instrument, in line with standard practices and thresholds for the evaluation of impacts where these are expected to fall under £5 million. The overall impact of the Windsor Framework is positive, as it aims to ease the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and this statutory instrument is a necessary part of implementing the framework. We have evaluated the specific impact of this SI. There are no significant costs to businesses, no significant impact on charities or voluntary bodies and no significant impact on the public sector.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, raised a further point on disapplication. Disapplication and derogations from EU law agreed under the Windsor Framework mean that the EU has to change its law, which of course it has to do under EU regulations. This is none the less implementing the bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU. The Windsor Framework takes effect through a range of mechanisms, including amendments to the text of the framework formally known as the Northern Ireland protocol, unilateral and joint declarations, and new UK and EU legislation. The EU has made new legislation to implement its obligations under the bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked about the SPS veterinary agreement. We have always been clear that the UK Government could not accept a veterinary agreement that is based on dynamic alignment with EU rules in perpetuity, and the EU has only ever proposed a veterinary agreement that is based on dynamic alignment. Through the Windsor Framework, the UK Government have committed to the construction of SPS inspection facilities. The Secretary of State for my department took powers earlier this year to progress construction of SPS inspection facilities. Permanent facilities will be ready by 1 July 2025 and an additional, temporary product inspection facility at Belfast port has been constructed and will be ready to conduct additional sanitary and phytosanitary checks from 1 October 2023 as the new schemes go live. I know there has been consultation between DAERA and the EU: that was happening last week and I know there was some involvement in that.

The noble Lord, Lord Dodds, asked why this SI was not laid earlier and why additional scrutiny was not possible. He mentioned the parliamentary Recess. I just say that it was not possible to lay these regulations earlier. The Windsor Framework was agreed on 27 February. Since then, detailed policy development and further engagement with the EU and with devolved Administrations has been required to finalise the arrangements. As this SI implements these arrangements, it was not possible to lay this SI before finalising the details. Some provisions within the Windsor Framework (Retail Movement Scheme) Regulations were required to take effect on 1 September. This was to ensure that traders have sufficient time to register for the scheme ahead of it taking effect on 1 October.

A number of noble Lords mentioned seed potatoes. The Northern Ireland plant health label scheme means that previously banned seed potatoes will once again be able to move to Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK, while remaining prohibited in the Republic of Ireland. The movement of seed potatoes is permitted using a Northern Ireland plant health label, rather than a costly phytosanitary certificate. Great Britain seed potatoes can be moved between professional operators for commercial growing in Northern Ireland. Once seed potatoes have been planted and grown into potatoes for consumption, they can be sold, including into the EU. If the seed potatoes are grown to produce further seed potatoes that meet the requirements of Northern Ireland’s classification scheme, the harvested seed potatoes will be eligible for sale and marketing to consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland and the EU.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the Windsor Framework’s benefits are realised for the benefit of businesses and people in Northern Ireland and across the UK in a manner that meets our international obligations. Therefore, we continue to take forward work to implement the Windsor Framework and engage with Northern Ireland parties as part of those efforts.

A number of noble Lords mentioned trees. The EU’s risk assessment process for the movement of so-called high-risk trees will be expedited. Once approved, they will move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, within the Northern Ireland plant health label. We prioritised removing bans on the movement of the plants and trees of greatest importance to industry: seed potatoes, which I have already mentioned, and the 11 most important GB-native and other commonly grown trees. Since the signing of the Windsor Framework, eight dossiers have been approved, with the ban on movement lifted on privet, hawthorn, apple, crab-apple and four species of maple. Another three dossiers, covering English oak, sessile oak and beech, are going through the process, with votes due imminently. We will continue to work with industry to make the case to lift the ban on other species, where there is a demand to do so. As dossiers are approved, they will be published on the plant health portal.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne, and others talked about whether this new arrangement was more burdensome than the STAMNI. The STAMNI was designed and implemented as a temporary measure to give retailers time to adapt to the requirements of the protocol. The Government have taken action to secure a sustainable, permanent exemption from these requirements for retailers. The Northern Ireland retail movement scheme provides a much broader scope than current arrangements in both the businesses that can benefit from these facilitations and the products eligible to move. For example, goods that meet GB public health, marketing and organics standards can move into Northern Ireland under the scheme. Goods that have been subject to additional certification, including certain chilled meat products such as sausages, will now be able to move under the single, per-consignment certificate.

Membership of the scheme is broader, too, covering hospitality, those providing food to the public sector and wholesalers supplying smaller retail outlets in Northern Ireland. Scheme membership can be easily updated, with businesses able to join and leave the scheme as their supply chains evolve.

These are important matters of detail. Can the Minister set out the trees and plants that are banned after the 11 dossiers have been fulfilled and all the rest of it? This is important because, as the Minister may be aware, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland gave fairly fulsome assurances publicly on television, even when challenged by journalists, that all these matters would flow smoothly and there would be no inhibitions for plants, trees and so on coming to Northern Ireland. I would be grateful if the Minister set out in writing to me and other Members of the Committee what is allowed and what is banned; what may be sold through garden centres commercially and what may be sent to individual consumers.

On seed potatoes, I think the Minister said that professional companies could sell to other organisations. What is the position with selling directly to consumers so that people can buy these things at garden centres and so on? I know that he has set out some broad-brush things, but it is that sort of detail that really matters to people on the ground.

I entirely understand the need for detail; I want to get the detail right and, therefore, I will write to the noble Lord giving that absolute clarity.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about fish. This SI simply ensures that the marketing and labelling standards for fish products in place in Great Britain are also in place and enforceable in Northern Ireland for products moving through the Northern Ireland retail scheme.

I think I have covered as many points raised by noble Lords as I can. I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 7.26 pm.