The UK government's plan for introducing checks on food products moving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain has seen a mixed reaction from industry bodies. As the UK has been expected to make a new offer to the EU on how to ease the trade friction in Northern Ireland that has arisen since the Northern Ireland Protocol was introduced at the start of the year, a Protocol roadmap has been drawn up by the UK and shared with the EU.
Phase 1 of the plan, beginning 1 October 2021, seems to involve the introduction of Export Health Certificates for fresh meat. Phase 2, from the end of January 2022, would cover dairy products, garden centre plants, seeds and wine. Phase 3 would involve fruit and vegetables and pet food while phase 4 would cover “ambient” foods such as jams, products with a short shelf life and high-risk foods not of animal origin.
UK government officials say ‘concrete timelines’ will evolve, with the timings of phases 3 and 4 determined by the success of the first phases and technical delivery conditions.
But the proposals have had a mixed reaction from the food sector. A recent article claims that the lack of detail “raises more questions than it answers”, such as whether the EU will agree and if the UK might press on regardless without that agreement.
“Trust is already low following the UK’s previous unilateral extensions of NI border checks. Lawsuits on the matter are ongoing. Any further deterioration in trust will benefit no one,” the editorial said.
He called on policy makers to concentrate on greater use of technology and digitisation of the Export Health Certificates system to free up vets needed in processing plants.