Thursday 18 June 2020 / 7:33 PM Louise Haigh / Northern Ireland

Government needs to publish a clear roadmap for implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol – Louise Haigh

Commenting on the roundtable on the Northern Ireland post-Brexit border arrangements, attended by businesses and unions, Shadow Secretary of State Louise Haigh MP said:

“The lack of detail and engagement from senior Ministers on the most significant change to border management in decades is staggering and irresponsible.

“There are 28 weeks until the new arrangements come into force in Northern Ireland and businesses simply cannot afford to be left in the dark any longer. It is absurd at this stage that so much remains unknown.

“Labour is calling for the Government to publish a clear roadmap for implementation of the Protocol, operational-level detail on the precise checks and requirements that will need to be implemented, and intensive engagement and support for businesses across Northern Ireland. With so little time left, businesses deserve clarity.”


Note to editors:

  • Additional comments from attendees to the roundtable:
  • Aodhán Connolly, Director, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium: “What we’re talking about here if we do not get this right is friction we’ve not had before, and costs we’ve not had before. Quite simply retail industry is high volume, and low-profit industry and that means we cannot afford to absorb it [new costs]…so far the UK Government is asking NI business community to answer an exam question when they have only given us the front and back cover of a textbook. We want to make solutions work but we need to see if the details of the new frictions under this protocol will mean that business models can even continue to be viable…this will fundamentally change, fundamentally define how we do business in NI for the foreseeable future and we have an opportunity here to make this work but if we don’t there will be consequences not just for NI business community but for households across NI.”
  • Victor Chestnutt, Deputy President, Ulster Farmers Union: “Clarity is what is lacking, we are really in a quandary as to what way to turn. We do not know, we were promised free and frictionless trade, we cannot see it being completely free and frictionless to GB, there will be some, [checks] even a declaration or health certificate. Farming is running on a knife-edge to make it work anyway and we have no ability to absorb extra costs…we need to keep the integrity of our food and we’re worried NI could be used as a back door into the UK and if this happens then we’re worried the integrity of our food, our Red Tractor produce could be compromised. A purchaser in the UK might not want to purchase because of the danger of backdoor training. We don’t know at our ports whether there will be red lanes or green lanes. We need a bit of clarity because we haven’t a clue where we’re heading – It’s like walking out into the fog.”
  • Victor Chestnutt, Deputy President, Ulster Farmers Union – concern over food standards: “…any watering down of standards means that stuff can come in cheaper. We’re asked to produce food to a high standard and we’re proud of that standard, but we can’t compete then with sub-standard produce from somewhere else in the world.”
  • Seamus Leheny, Freight Transport Association – potential tailbacks at GB ports without clarity: “The concern for us is basically we’re going to rely on a new IT system linking in the trade with GB with importers in NI; Ferry companies, haulage companies right down to the drivers. We’re looking at lorry drivers having to upload multiple references into one single reference and then upload that electronically to an IT system. If these things aren’t done right they simply won’t be allowed to board the ferries to leave GB, so the concern for us if we don’t have the training, the preparation and the clarity we’re going to see tailbacks of lorries in Liverpool, Heysham and Cairnryan next year with lorries that haven’t dotted the eyes and crossed the Ts properly and that has a massive impact on supply chains and shops here.”
  • Seamus Leheny, Freight Transport Association – Government’s promise of ‘unfettered access’ questioned: “Also probably the exit declarations, so goods leaving Northern Ireland bound for GB, from speaking to HMRC it does appear that there will actually be some formalities in some trades leaving NI bound for GB. And also EU are sticking to Withdrawal Agreement that exit declarations will be required. To sum up we need clarity as soon as possible… [Louise Haigh: Just on that final point Seamus, if you are required to provide exit declarations, that’s not unfettered access is it?]. No because it’s another piece of work that you never had to do before, now usually that’s done electronically…and all of the IT systems HMRC have outlined are all digital except anything moving via transit.”