Northern Irish politicians have united over fears for food supplies following new regulations that will be implemented when the UK leaves the EU single market on 1st January 2021. This has been reinforced by Marks & Spencer who warn that as much as 15% of their product lines may not be available in NI branches from January.
These new regulations will cause issues as Northern Ireland will remain within the EU in order to protect cross-border trade with the Republic of Ireland (ROI).
High risks foods, such as eggs, meat and fish, will require a EHC (Export Health Certificate), signed by an approved vet, in order to enter the EU and, therefore, Northern Ireland and could prove very expensive. This has led M&S questioning whether they are able to run some product lines. They have stressed that they remain committed to providing the same range of products to Northern Ireland but they need urgent answers on several aspects from the UK Government, including labelling and certification processes, to avoid a risk to their ability to supply products to NI from the UK. Other Retailers, including Sainsburys, have expressed similar concerns.
The European Commission Vice President, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein sent an open letter to the EU’s representative on the Joint Committee, and stated that there had been a meeting with representatives of the main supermarkets who stressed how ‘critical the current situation is’ and that there is a real threat to the continuity of food supply to the NI market – solutions need to be found urgently.
The EU commission confirmed that it was aware of the concerns raised and was taking the situation very seriously.