The drinks industry has welcomed an agreement that will help overcome trade barriers in Northern Ireland following Brexit.
The Windsor Framework, agreed in principle by prime minister Rishi Sunak and the European Commission last week, is designed to break the impasse and create a sustainable platform to facilitate the movement of goods.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said the UK Government and EU Commission are to be “congratulated”.
“On the face the of it the solution offered in the ‘Windsor Framework’ appears to offer a pragmatic solution that respects the integrity of the UK, the Good Friday Agreement and also the EU Single Market,” he said.
“The introduction of green lanes for a wide range of goods destined for Northern Ireland should remove many of the additional checks and balances that the Northern Ireland Protocol introduced when the UK left the EU. For businesses this means less paperwork which prevents products being pulled from the shelves and avoids unnecessary price rises for consumers.”
Beale went on to caution that the “devil is in the detail” and he said the WSTA will need to study the text thoroughly to ensure a fair treatment for wine and spirits shipped between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Wine Society CEO Steve Finlan added: “Post Brexit we found we had a very real problem getting wine over to Northern Ireland and even with the easement it felt like a sword of Damocles was hanging over the whole process. This solution seems very workable and with clarity and a sense of certainty and consistency it will make a real difference.”
Laithwaites UK CEO Philippa Strub expressed relief that the Windsor Framework provides a “long term solution so that our customers in Northern Ireland can continue to access the same wide range of Laithwaites products without the risk of added costs and bureaucracy of having to complete customs declarations for wines shipped to their homes”.
“I applaud all involved in the negotiations from both UK and EU for their hard work and determination to get this deal over the line,” Strub added. “I hope it can be formally agreed in the coming weeks and provide much needed certainty for all businesses that trade with the island of Ireland.”