Pragmatic solutions needed to make NI Protocol work for agriculture in its entirety
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While “certain elements have been working”, it is creating some difficulties within the UK internal market the union said.
“The UFU represents farmers across all agri sectors in NI and, while some parts of the NI Protocol are working for several commodities, it is causing havoc for others.
“This is due to NI remaining within the European Union regulatory zone, while Great Britain is considered a ‘third country’ outside the EU, creating restrictions and checks on agricultural produce, animals and plants moving from GB to NI.
“Pragmatic solutions need to be found to make the NI Protocol work for agriculture in its entirety, and as one of NI’s largest and most economically valuable sectors, it’s in government’s best interests to deliver on this immediately.”
The UFU has been raising issues in relation to the NI Protocol for the past 18 months and, to date, the industry has brought forward many solutions to the problems.
Mr Brown continued: “The UFU recognise the vitality of access to both GB and the EU.
“We’ve been lobbying politicians for months on the NI Protocol and were promised the best of both worlds, sold on the idea that farmers would have unfettered access to GB and EU markets. “However, in specific areas we’ve ended up in no man’s land, unable to use products from GB and equally unable to switch to Republic of Ireland inputs as they’re not licensed in the UK.
“The time for playing the blame game has long passed and it’s our primary producers who are paying the price for these issues going unresolved.
“The impact it is having on their farm business is getting completely forgotten.
“All the political parties recognise there are specific issues for agriculture that need resolved.
“Negotiated solutions are vital for our industry, and it’s about time both sides came together to deliver them,” Mr Brown ended.
Food industry leaders in Northern Ireland have also called for ‘agreed solutions’ between the UK and EU.
Michael Bell, executive director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, stated: “Given the integrated nature of supply chains on and between these islands, and the importance of both markets, food and drink businesses in Northern Ireland need to have frictionless trade with the UK and the EU.
“We need both, and simply cannot be forced to choose.
“The livelihoods of 113,000 people depend on the prosperity of Northern Ireland food and drink.
“The Northern Ireland business community as a whole has been working to find and encourage practical solutions to maintaining frictionless trade since 2016.
“For the past six years, we have been engaging with the UK government and EU to ensure that any new trading arrangement with the EU met four key tests – affordability, certainty, simplicity, and stability.”
He continued: “NIFDA supports the Northern Ireland Protocol and believes it has largely given businesses here that certainty, solving many of the challenges that Brexit posed to Northern Ireland food and drink businesses.
“It has been vital to ensuring continuity of trade in goods across the island of Ireland, and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“Crucially, it secured Northern Ireland’s ability to freely export to both the EU and the rest of the UK.
“For a minority of our members, there have been issues, some of which have been dealt with by the grace periods, and NIFDA has been working with the government to highlight areas where processes can be streamlined, and improvements made.
“This is the beginning of the legislative process, but the only path to a long term, durable solution is through negotiation, and identifying practical solutions to address the remaining issues that the protocol presents.
“NIFDA will continue to engage with both the UK and EU to encourage these agreed solutions,” Mr Bell Concluded.