The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) formally adopted the Windsor Framework on 25 March 2023.
The Windsor Framework is a political agreement between the EU and UK. It is a new way forward for the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and it aims to facilitate trade between Great Britain (GB) and Northern Ireland (NI), while maintaining Northern Ireland’s access to the European Single Market.
What does the Windsor Framework cover?
The Framework allows for the introduction of new and simplified rules and procedures for entry of certain agri-food retail goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain where the goods are intended for final consumption in Northern Ireland.
On the customs side, the Framework includes the simplification of customs procedures, facilitations for parcel post and an expansion of the existing UK trusted trader scheme. The customs changes will be introduced on a phased basis with the planned timetable for implementation:
• 30 September 2023 – start expanded scheme for trusted traders
• 30 September 2024 – start all facilitations for freight and parcels
How will the Windsor Framework work for SPS goods/rules?
New rules regarding sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which protect public, animal and plant health, will make it possible to move agri-food retail products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland for end consumption there with minimal certification requirements and controls. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘green lane’.
Goods entering NI but destined for Ireland or the EU, will continue to be subject to full EU controls on arrival in Northern Ireland. This will allow smoother trade between GB and NI of food for end consumer-use in Northern Ireland while continuing to ensure that all imported agri-food products on sale in Ireland meet EU requirements.
What does the Windsor Framework mean for my food business in Ireland?
If you are a food business operating in Ireland who imports food from GB through NI, your products are subject to full EU import controls on arrival in NI.
If you are importing directly from GB to Ireland, there is no change to current rules. For more information about importing, see the FSAI’s food imports page.
What does the Windsor Framework mean for my food business with operations in Northern Ireland?
If your food business operates in NI and you plan to import food to sell only on the NI market, your goods may avail of the facilitations often referred to as the ‘green lane’, provided they meet UK requirements. Goods entering NI under this trade facilitation and destined for the NI market only, should be labelled ‘Not For EU’ and are prohibited from being placed on the EU market.
The introduction of the labelling provisions begins 1 October 2023 and applies to prepacked meat, prepacked meat products and meat packed on the premises from which they’re sold, prepacked milk, prepacked dairy products and dairy products packed on the premises from which they’re sold.
What does the ‘Not for EU’ label mean?
The ‘Not for EU’ label means that the product has entered NI under simplified trade rules, has not been subject to full EU controls, is intended only to be placed on the market in Northern Ireland for final consumers and cannot be placed for sale in Ireland.
As part of the Framework, new labelling is being introduced for certain agri-food goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This includes a label on UK products which have entered under simplified trade rules (via the ‘green lane’) that states ‘Not for EU’ on the package.
This labelling enables prepackaged retail goods, including meat and fresh produce, and certain loose food such as fruit and vegetables, to be transported from Great Britain under simplified trade rules to Northern Ireland, for sale on the market in NI only.
The dates for the introduction of the labelling provisions are:
1. From 1 October 2023 – prepacked meat, prepacked meat products and meat packed on the premises from which they’re sold, prepacked milk, prepacked dairy products and dairy products packed on the premises from which they’re sold
2. From 01 October 2024 – all milk and dairy products
3. From 01 July 2025 – all other retail food included under the new labelling provisions
What do I do if my food business in Ireland is supplied with food marked with ‘Not for EU’ from Northern Ireland?
If you own or operate a food business in Ireland, you cannot use food from NI marked with ‘Not for EU’ in your food business as it entered Northern Ireland under simplified trade rules and has not been subject to full EU controls. If you are supplied with food marked with ‘Not for EU’ from Northern Ireland, you should contact your supplier immediately, return the food and notify your competent authority.
Can I buy ingredients labelled with ‘Not for EU’ from Northern Ireland to use in my production in Ireland?
No, if you own or operate a food business in Ireland which produces food products for the EU market, you are not permitted to use food from NI marked with ‘Not for EU’ in your food business. To use or sell such foods from NI in Ireland is a breach of EU legislation.
I operate a catering business in Ireland, can I source ingredients from Northern Ireland to use in my final dishes to supply to my customers (schools/crèches, nursing homes etc)?
To use any ingredients sourced from NI in final food/dishes which will be distributed to customers (e.g., schools/crèches, nursing homes, etc.) in Ireland, it is essential that you check that those ingredients can be placed on the market in Ireland i.e., the ingredients were either produced in NI or were subject to full EU controls (through the ‘red lane’).
As a consumer, can I continue to shop in NI?
The Windsor Framework relates to trade and customs procedures only and it does not apply to consumers shopping cross-border. Specific food items labelled ‘Not for EU’ that have entered Northern Ireland under trade facilitations, without full EU controls, are intended for final consumers in Northern Ireland.
What if the local shop or farmers’ market is selling food labelled as ‘Not For EU’?
If a shop or local farmers’ market in Ireland is selling food labelled as ‘Not for EU’, it is important that you report this to the FSAI. As this food was not subject to full EU import controls, it was not intended for sale in Ireland. The FSAI can be contacted through our online complaints form.
Are these ‘Not For EU’ foods safe?
While the products labelled as ‘Not For EU’ may be safe, these foods are destined for the market in NI, have not been subject to full EU controls and are only subject to the UK public health and consumer standards, which may differ from EU requirements.
I run a food business in Ireland, can I still import food from Great Britain via Northern Ireland?
Yes. Goods travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland can still move on into Ireland and the European Union once they have completed EU controls (the ‘red lane’). This will ensure that all imported agri-food products on sale in Ireland meet EU standards.
I run a food business in Ireland, can I still source food from Northern Ireland?
Yes, however you must make sure that you have the correct documentation available. Any foods supplied by a food business in NI to a food business in Ireland must be manufactured in NI and/or have undergone EU controls on arrival into NI. This ensures that the food supplied meets the same EU requirements as foods imported directly into Ireland from Great Britain.
What should I do if I want to import food products from Northern Ireland or Great Britain?
Importing is a normal part of running a food business in Ireland. If you are importing food manufactured in NI, this food will have been manufactured to EU standards. If you are importing food directly from Great Britain into Ireland, import controls continue to apply. You must not use food which is labelled as ‘Not for EU’ in your food business.
Food business operators should identify and incorporate any potential risks in their food safety management system (HACCP), including potential risks related to importing. It is important to ensure that the imported food complies with all relevant EU legislation.