The Northern Ireland beef and sheep industry has written to Michael Gove MP, the UK cabinet minister with main responsibility for future trading relationship with the EU, to warn that they won’t be ready on 1 January.
They have called for any new trading arrangements to be phased in over a 12-month period, allowing time to adapt.
In a letter from their trade association, the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) they say that: “We are writing to warn you that as a result of a lack of timely clarity from government on a whole range of issues and irrespective of the outcome of FTA negotiations, the NI meat industry cannot be ready at the end of the implementation period on 31 December.”
This means that even if a deal is agreed between the EU and UK in the coming days, they are saying they will not be ready to implement the new rules for doing business after the 1 January.
This they say it is because government “continues to amend policy, write legislation draft guidance, develop systems and negotiate with the EU,” and that “it is simply impossible for business to plan and adhere to rules and systems that continue to evolve.”
They warn that with guidance arriving so late “they risk overwhelming business.”
The letter highlights specific areas that remain unresolved or where they consider the guidance is unworkable:
NIMEA have dismissed the suggestion by various government departments of “light touch” enforcement as a solution. They say that the industry is “uncomfortable with such an unsustainable and unreliable solution” and don’t want “informal undertakings with no legal standing.”
Northern Ireland’s beef and sheep industry was worth £1.436bn (€1.6bn) in 2018, the most recent figures with a huge part of this driven by import of carcase beef and sheep from Britain for processing in NI. Dublin port is widely used for transporting agri food produce from NI to Britain with estimates varying from 25% to 50% of all exports.