In July 2020, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons unanimously approved and published a report highlighting the lack of clarity for Northern Irish businesses on the new protocol agreed between Britain and the EU as part of the withdrawal process. They warned that the British Government had left businesses ill-prepared to face new obligations from January 2021.
On 7 August 2020, British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove announced a new £650 million Brexit support and peace and reconciliation package for Northern Ireland. Mr Gove confirmed that £300 million of the package was allocated to the Peace Plus programme and will help “to support peace, prosperity and reconciliation projects on the island of Ireland”. £200 million will go towards a new free-to-use trader support service that will assist with import, safety and security declarations on behalf of traders. The other £155 million will go towards new technology to ensure the new processes can be fully digital and streamlined.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said that the investment underlined the British Government’s “absolute commitment to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland”.
Detractors however, have highlighted that the £300 million commitment to peace funding had already been pledged back in 2019 to continue joint projects with the EU. It has also been argued that the remaining £355 million investment in spending on new import procedures for goods entering Northern Ireland that has been necessitated by Brexit with £155 million designated for the implementation of technology to ensure the new procedures are digital.
The remaining £200 million is dedicated to implementing a trader support service, designed to take care of import procedures and their associated costs for a period of two years leaving Northern Irish businesses uncertain as to who will shoulder these costs upon the expiry of this term.