The UK government must ensure it aligns its standards with the EU or thousands of animal health certificates will soon be needed for products coming into Northern Ireland from Britain, according to Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus.

The current grace period which gives some leeway on checks comes to a close in April and supermarkets have already written to UK minister Michael Gove calling for the period to be extended.

Border checks

Tensions around border checks have been growing since Friday, when the Northern Irish Minister for Agriculture Gordon Lyons said that construction and recruitment for permanent border checks was being halted due to practical difficulties.

The European Commission insists that the border check facilities must be completed by mid-2021.

Midlands–North-West MEP MacManus said of the issue that “practicality must prevail”.

He added: “Soon, in addition to a complete ban on chilled meat products, such as sausages and minced meat, veterinary certificates will be required for a huge quantity of goods entering the north, resulting in significant cost increases in paperwork and time. The fear is that British suppliers would deem the market unprofitable and leave shelves empty.”

“We cannot reverse Brexit, but we can target points of particular friction to reach additional agreements. Britain aligning SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] checks with the EU, in order to reduce red tape on both sides, would be a step in the right direction.”

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