M and S says Northern Ireland will face food supply issues and price hikes in lead up to Christmas

Tue 31 Aug 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

M&S boss Archie Norman has warned that Northern Ireland faces a “substantial reduction in food supply” and price increases later this year due to new, post-Brexit goods movement rules.

The retailer has already cancelled its pre-Christmas food ordering service in NI due to concerns about being able to deliver when the latest grace period ends after 30 September.

Norman said M&S had delisted some products in NI because “it’s simply not worth the risk of trying to get it through,” reports Belfast Live.

‘Out of date rules’

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the M&S chairman says that the EU’s “out of date rules” for the movement of food from third countries [any nation outside the EU, including Great Britain] were designed more than 20 years ago at a time of worries over salmonella and BSE and are “at odds with a modern, fresh food, supply chain between close trading partners”.

M&S lorries now travel to the ports with 700 pages of documentation, he said, but only 80% of products are getting through to Northern Ireland and even less to France.

Equivalence

Norman called for an ‘equivalence’ deal where the EU and Britain recognise each other’s standards. However, the UK has been reluctant to enter into such an arrangement as it feels it may hinder trade deals elsewhere.

When grace periods end on 1 October, chilled meats from GB such as fresh sausages will not be permitted into NI, while products of animal origin (meat, dairy, fish and eggs) will require Export Health Certificates.

Aodhán Connolly from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said the conditions were still not in place to end the grace period and called for a “standstill” until a system that removed friction from the movement of goods between GB and NI was in place.

Ambitious proposal

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, the British government published a ‘command paper’ this summer calling for an overhaul of the protocol, something the EU is firmly against.

Brexit minister Lord Frost wrote in the Times that the UK was “proposing an ambitious compromise built on concepts already in the Protocol”, with the UK accepting responsibility to help to protect the single market by applying EU customs rules to goods going via Northern Ireland, but wanted goods to be able to flow more easily into Northern Ireland.