Food safety rules: EU rejects UK push for relaxing rules around Northern Ireland Protocol

Mon 10 May 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The EU has signalled that it will not accept the UK’s push for a “risk assessment-based” approach to food safety rules for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The EU – which generally adopts a 'zero risk' approach – is instead pushing for formal alignment on rules and standards, the Independent reports. The UK has ruled this out as it prevents divergence from the EU to make its own rules.

Call for flexibility

Instead, UK negotiators have been pushing for the EU to take a more flexible approach on food import and animal health regulations that would reduce the need for disruptive new controls.

The UK unilaterally suspended the introduction of controls in March, but these grace periods are due to end on 1 October.

Irish state broadcaster RTE reports that UK Brexit minister David Frost and his EU opposite number Maroš Šefčovič are expected to meet stakeholders and businesses in Northern Ireland on managing the protocol, possibly as early as next week.

EU ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, has said that talks between the UK and EU over the NI Protocol are progressing, according to the FT

Spirit of cooperation

He said the EU had an “emotional” commitment to finding a solution “sooner rather than later”, and that there was a new spirit of cooperation between the parties.

He added that the UK government was working with Brussels to complete Britain’s implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, including finalising border infrastructure and granting the EU access to IT systems. Meanwhile, the EU was displaying a “reasonable flexibility”, he said.

However, the BBC reported on Friday that Protocol rules are still causing difficulties for manufacturers in Northern Ireland that buy parts from Britain. 

Good for NI seafood

The BBC also reported that the Protocol has created a “positive situation” for the region’s seafood sector, as producers in other parts of the UK have been hampered by new rules for trade with the EU. 

NI seafood exports to the EU require minimal paperwork and checks giving “NI exporters a comparative advantage over their GB competitors” according to a study, produced by the Fishing and Seafood Development Programme.