The Northern Ireland Assembly’s agriculture committee has heard evidence from the chief vet Robert Huey that in order to secure approvals for border check processes by the end of the transition period, the application needs to be completed by 24 June 2020 – just three weeks away. This is from a report in Farming Life, an online publication for the province’s agricultural sector.
Ominously, this is not the deadline for arranging an orderly end to the transition period; according to Mr Huey that passed some time ago. He explained that this was the last chance to avoid shortages on supermarket shelves next January.
He told members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) that he wanted to set expectations, adding that “a smooth end to transition is no longer possible – that can’t be delivered. Let’s start with that realisation.” He then added:
“What we are trying to deliver is a minimal viable product to keep product moving, to keep food on shelves on January 1, 2021 – that’s how serious it is.”
Dr McMahon, Northern Ireland’s permanent secretary for agriculture told MLAs on the committee that around 200 lorries a day enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain. He explained how officials are working seven days a week to extend facilities at Larne (see picture above), Belfast and Warren Point to convert them into EU-approved border control posts. They are also in discussions with the two main airports.
McMahon complained that the first clear mandate and clarity on the British government’s position did not come until 20 May, leaving, “a lot of work to do and a very short amount of time to do it in.”
Dr McMahon told the committee that 60 per cent of UK food imports are from the EU and 70 per cent of the retail food supply to Northern Ireland comes from Great Britain, adding “to put it bluntly, we all need to make this work”.
More articles on the NI protocol:
- Lords committee lambasts government mishandling of the NI protocol
- Johnson’s ignorance will cast a long shadow over Ireland
- Border realities dawn over the Irish Sea as storm clouds gather
This comes as business leaders in Northern Ireland hit out at Downing Street for “refusing to discuss the plans in detail with the people who will be affected by them.” They have apparently urged Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of implementing the NI protocol, to acknowledge he has left business groups no time to prepare for the December deadline.
Business Insider reports that at least one major supermarket is considering moving out of Northern Ireland due to the additional costs associated with trading across the sea border:
New: The potential impact of the Northern Ireland protocol is becoming clearer – and it’s alarming— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) June 6, 2020
– Major retailers, including a big supermarket, are considering leaving NI, I’m told
– New costs & price rises are set to hit poorest families the hardest https://t.co/1ZqIyQNipd