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Stormont Brakes

An early concern about the Protocol's implementation was the lack of input from the Northern Ireland Assembly into decisions about changes in EU law that applies in Northern Ireland under the Protocol.

Under Article 13(3), amendments and replacements to EU law applicable in Northern Ireland under the Protocol apply automatically once adopted by the EU.

Under Article 13(4) the UK and the EU may agree in the Joint Committee to add relevant new EU laws to the Protocol.

EU law applicable under the Protocol therefore changes. For details of changes to date see the project's Dynamic Regulatory Alignment explainers.

So as to address, at least in part, the resulting 'democratic deficit', the EU and the UK Government agreed as part of the Windsor Framework to introduce a 'Stormont Brake' that allows members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, under certain cicumstances, to block the application of Article 13(3) amendments and replacements to EU law concerning the movement of goods applicable under the Protocol (i.e. EU acts listed in Annex 2). The provisions are contained in text added as Article 13(3a) to the Protocol.

The UK Government also agreed in domestic UK legislation to a second 'Stormont Brake' allowing MLAs to vote against the UK government agreeing to the addition of a new EU law to the scope of the Protocol. See also the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.

The processes and conditions for the use of each Stormont Brake can be summarized as follows:


Early analyses of the provisions for the Stormont Brakes note the complexity of the procedures as well as the conditions involved, leading to questions as to how often they may actually be used. In principle, given the obligations that the UK has entered into in the Protocol, the Windsor Framework commitments of the UK Government and European Commission to stakeholder engagement, and to the EU taking into account issues regarding legislative changes relating to the Protocol, use of either Stormont Brake should be limited.

Use of the first Stormont Brake (Article 13(3) Protocol) can be challenged by the European Commission where it believes that the UK Government has not acted in 'good faith' (under Article 5 of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement) in notifying it of the non-implementation of an amendment or replacement to an EU act listed in Annex 2 of the Protocol. The matter would be referred to an arbitration panel with the UK and the EU agreeing that compliance with any ruling against the UK would be 'swift' with a recommendation that the amendment/replacement is implemented from the first day of the second month following the arbitration panel's notification.

Where the UK under the second Stormont Brake does not agree to a relevant new EU act being added to the Protocol, the EU can take 'appropriate remedial measures' (see Article 13(4) Protocol).