New checks on food products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK will present a ‘significant challenge’ for business, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has said.
The Government has confirmed infrastructure at Northern Irish ports will be expanded in order to carry out the checks, which are being introduced as a result of the Withdrawal Agreement reached by the UK and EU last year.
They will make checks on the Irish border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unnecessary.
Live animals entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are already subject to checks, but food products are not.
The new rules, known as the ‘Northern Ireland protocol’, must be applied even if a UK-EU trade deal cannot be agreed by the current deadline of December 31, 2020.
Detailed criteria will be set out by the Joint Committee, set up in the withdrawal agreement, on which Great British goods are ‘at risk’ of being shipped on to the EU from Northern Ireland, and therefore have to pay the EU tariff.
Trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain will remain unfettered, raising questions about whether EU products moved through the Republic of Ireland and on to Northern Ireland could end up in Great Britain without paying appropriate tariffs or completing the necessary paperwork.
An FDF spokeswoman told Farmers Guardian trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland takes place ‘seamlessly’ at the moment, and is not viewed as an export.
“It is likely that many companies trading from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will have limited or no prior experience of exporting,” she said.
“Processes and systems which are set to be introduced will be new to these businesses and this presents a significant challenge.
“A key problem remains in that we have little clarity on how tariffs will apply for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and the types of goods which will be deemed ‘at risk’.”