The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said agreement has been reached to minimise trade friction between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The announcement came following meetings between the UFU, co-chairs of the UK and EU withdrawal agreement joint committee and the EU’s special adviser on the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement.

It was outlined at the meetings that the key principles that need to be delivered to alleviate the difficulties that have been ongoing since the NI Protocol came into affect are stability, certainty, simplification and affordability.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “The EU and UK have agreed to use their best endeavours to address these principles with particular emphasis on facilitations to minimise trade friction while also protecting the European single market.

“The engagement with NI on the matter of trade disruption has been very disappointing and poor to date, but is however beginning to improve. There also remains considerable confusion in EU member states about trading requirements with NI businesses.”

Disruption solutions

The UFU has said that since the NI Protocol came into effect on 1 January, the NI agri-food industry has been enduring significant trade disruption.

This includes changes to livestock identification, a six-month residency period in Britain for NI livestock that are shown at events or sales across the water before re-entry to NI, the disruption of trade in machinery, rooted seedling plants and trees from Britain due to certification requirements for freedom from soil or other potential contaminants, plus extra costs for NI agri-food processors moving products into Britain.

Chestnutt continued: “We reiterated that on 1 January, the whole of the UK was uniquely aligned with EU rules and it is most likely that the UK and the EU will continue to remain closely aligned on agri-food going forward.

“It’s essential that this is recognised by both the EU and the UK until one chooses to differ on specific regulations. Only at this point should additional physical checks or documentary arrangements be introduced.”