What are NI Protocol Grace Periods?

The UK and the EU have reached an agreement in principle in respect of the implementation of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol (the “Protocol”) to take effect in January 2021.

The Protocol, agreed as part of the Withdrawal Treaty ratified earlier this year, seeks to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the EU single market and maintain Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market when the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at the end of the transition period.  The EU and UK agreed a Northern Ireland Protocol that there would be no new checks on goods crossing the border between NI and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

On 10 December 2020, the UK government published a Command Paper and the relevant draft decisions of the Joint Committee setting out details of what had been agreed in principle for the implementation the Protocol.

Northern Ireland Protocol

EU exit and the Northern Ireland Protocol

The NI protocol aims to:

  • avoid a hard border between NI and the ROI
  • make sure of the integrity of the EU’s single market for goods
  • facilitate unfettered access for NI goods to the GB market, and the inclusion of NI goods in free trade agreements between the UK and third countries

NI Protocol Grace Periods

Essentially time for NI businesses and their GB suppliers in the rest of the UK to adapt.

Grace Period 1 – expires 31 March 2021

Products of animal originPlant Origin




3 months from 01 January 2021 (expires 31 March 2021) Authorised traders such as supermarkets and their trusted suppliers will be given a 3-month grace period from official certification for products of animal origin, composite products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plants and plant products.

Grace Period 2 – expires 30 June 2021

Met & Poultry




6 months from 01 January 2021 (expires 30 June 2021): 6-month grace period has also been agreed to facilitate authorised movements of restricted products such as chilled meats from GB-NI.

Grace Period 2 – expires 31 December 2021





12 months from 01 January 2021 (expires 31 December 2021): a 12-month phasing in of regulatory requirements for medicines to avoid
disruption to the flow of medicines from GB-NI.

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