Major UK supermarkets earlier warned the government that an “urgent intervention” was called for to prevent further disruption to Northern Ireland food supplies, as shortages of some products were witnessed while retailers faced new post-Brexit challenges.
Boris Johnson has vowed he will not hesitate to unilaterally tear up the Brexit deal to trigger safety measures of the Northern Ireland Protocol if “serious problems” continue to persist in supplying food products to supermarkets in Northern Ireland.
Although earlier he dismissed as “teething problems” the ongoing food supply disruption facing British traders caused by the introduction of a customs border down the Irish Sea under the terms of the withdrawal agreement signed with the European Union, he was called out on the issue during the Prime Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged direct government intervention to deal with the food supply chaos, reported The Independent.
“The prime minister promised us that Northern Ireland will continue to have unfettered access to the UK internal market. And yet in my constituency, consumers are facing empty supermarket shelves. They can’t get parcels delivered from Great Britain… Small businesses cannot bring spare parts or raw materials into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. Steel importers are facing tariffs and we have many other problems, all caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol,” said Donaldson.
While Great Britain is no longer in the customs union with the European Union, Northern Ireland, while no longer legally in the EU Customs Union, remains an entry point into it, creating a de facto customs border down the Irish Sea.
Accordingly, food products entering Northern Ireland (NI) from Great Britain require professional certification and are subject to checks and controls at ports.
While there is also a three month “grace period” allowing supermarkets to refrain currently from complying with all the EU’s usual certification requirements, the movement of food products from along the GB – NI route has been facing challenging disruptions.