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A bespoke arrangement for agri-foods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would help solve trade tensions, MPs were told today.

Leading trade lawyer Shanker Singham is a partner in the consortium delivering HM Government’s Trader Support Service who gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today.

The BBC reported that MPs today were told small businesses are still struggling with new customs requirements for GB to NI trade, despite being given a grace period on SPS checks.

NI Protocol

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, NI remains within the EU customs union and single market as well as the UK customs territory, meaning that movement of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods from GB to NI needs to comply with the EU regulations.

Hauliers moving SPS goods from GB to NI will need to ensure the NI importer has obtained the correct SPS documents in advance. Documentary checks include Export Health Certificates (EHCs), phytosanitary certificates and any other relevant licences.

When moving SPS goods, drivers will have to comply with documentary checks and goods may be subject to physical inspection at the port of departure or an agreed location.

New Zealand deal

Singham told MPs a deal similar to that in operation between the EU and New Zealand would require physical inspections on just 2% of produce arriving into NI from GB and documentary checks on 10% of shipments.

The EU’s agreement with New Zealand is based on mutual recognition of each other’s high food standards, reducing the frequency of checks on products and paperwork required. However, New Zealand agri-food products entering the EU still require EHCs.

Despite the free trade agreement struck between the UK and the EU in December 2020, the two maintain separate regimes regulating human, plant and animal health.

The BBC reported that at the hearing, TSS representatives said the system for moving goods between GB and NI is "evolving" and will become simpler.