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EU mobile phone design plans could undermine the Union, Committee warns

30 January 2024

In a report published today, the European Scrutiny Committee has raised concerns that new EU rules on mobile phone design could see Northern Ireland diverge from the UK.

In its report, the Committee says it is possible that “significant differences” will exist in the future between regulation in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. “This would not be acceptable,” it says, and would constitute “yet another example of the damage that current arrangements under the Windsor Framework are causing to the Union.”

The EU’s plans set out new sustainability and energy performance rules for mobile phones, as part of the bloc’s ‘European Green Deal’. Under the Windsor Framework, the rules will apply in Northern Ireland from 30 June 2025. However, the new requirements are the kinds of EU Single Market rules which are reported to be part of the UK Government’s deal to limit regulatory divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in an effort to restore the Northern Ireland Executive.

Included in the plans are requirements for batteries to withstand at least 800 charging cycles while retaining 80% of their original capacity. Software updates will need to remain available for at least 5 years after the product is placed on the market, and producers will need to make critical spare parts available for repairers until 7 years after sales of the product end.

Lord Callanan, the minister responsible for responding to the regulations, set out the Government’s position in an explanatory memorandum (EM). He noted that there are no equivalent rules to the new regulations in Great Britain but provides no analysis of the impact of possible divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In a letter to Lord Callanan, Committee Chairman Sir William Cash asks the UK Government whether it believes that the rules should apply in Northern Ireland and whether it plans to replicate them in Great Britain.

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