The Windsor Framework, Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal, was adopted unilaterally in March 2023 – SIMON WALKER/AVALON

Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal will create more red tape for businesses which send goods to Northern Ireland, leading peers have warned.

A report by a House of Lords subcommittee found that the new bureaucracy the agreement generates will be “more burdensome” for many firms than the status quo.

The dossier, which was produced by a largely Remainer committee, will heap pressure on the Prime Minister to revisit the Windsor Framework.

Brexiteers said it showed his deal was “fatally flawed” and warned that it “renders us worse off” by re-affirming the border in the Irish Sea.

The Daily Telegraph has been told that sources close to Downing Street allegedly attempted to get the most withering criticisms in the report watered down.

Peers on the Northern Ireland Protocol subcommittee gathered evidence from businesses about the impact the agreement will have on them.

They concluded that the pact will be beneficial to very large retailers, but will leave many other companies facing more paperwork than before.

That is because the deal ends a series of indefinite “grace periods” which the UK unilaterally imposed to soften the impact of the original Protocol.

Red lane, green lane

“In important respects, and in particular for the non-retail sector, the Windsor Framework will be more burdensome than the Protocol as it has operated to date,” the report said.

“While the green lane will benefit large retailers in particular, some retailers, and some other sectors, may have to use the red lane.”

The “green lane” will see items destined only for Northern Ireland and labelled as such able to cross the Irish Sea with no physical checks and minimal paperwork. All other goods will have to go through a “red lane”.

Peers highlighted the haulage sector, which will have to bear the brunt of much of the new red tape, as being particularly negatively affected.

Mark Tait, from Target Transport, told the committee that the Windsor Framework “could make things much more difficult than our current position”.

The report also raised concerns from businesses about the red tape and cost involved in new requirements to label products as not for the EU.

Companies that want to avoid the most burdensome checks by sending food through the green lane may have to use four different stickers to label goods.

Even the largest firms like M&S have raised concerns about the plans, warning that the system is so complex they won’t be able to navigate it.

In its report the Lords committee urged the Government to swiftly “set out how it will support businesses in adapting to these changes”.

Much of the Windsor Framework deal, including the creation of the green and red lane system, is set to come into force in October.

Report ‘exposes the spin’

Peers did conclude that the new agreement is “an improvement on the Protocol as originally negotiated” without the permanent grace periods.

They praised its “pragmatic compromises” on rules around VAT but added that “there has been no substantive change to the role” of the EU court.

The report comes amid anger from Tory MPs over the Government’s attempts to push the deal through Parliament with little scrutiny.

Mark Francois, the chairman of the ERG said: “This Lords committee, which could hardly be said to be dominated by Brexiteers, in fact quite the reverse, has produced a detailed critique of the Windsor Framework, which effectively upholds many of the key criticisms of our own Star Chamber report back in March.

“This new analysis explains why the Windsor Framework is fatally flawed and thus also why the DUP have still not reentered Stormont.”

Nigel Dodds, a DUP peer who was one of the few eurosceptic members of the committee, said the report “exposes the spin” from No 10.

He said: “This report from a heavily Remain stacked committee is quite significant and certainly doesn’t give the Government much room for complacency or comfort.

“The key conclusion is it makes things worse for business than what they have experienced up until now and renders us worse off in terms of the Irish Sea border.”

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