Responding to proposals by the UK Government to replace the Northern Ireland backstop, Brian Irwin, Chair, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has said it is welcome that the Government has tabled these proposals.
He continued: “In particular, we once again welcome the confirmation of unfettered access for all NI businesses selling into GB and the proposed all-island food safety SPS zone.
“We see this as at the very least a starting point from which we can move forward on other areas.
“However, it does nothing to address the customs and administrative barriers businesses will face.
“Given the fact that the majority of businesses involved in cross border trade are SMEs, this is significant as many firms will not have the capacity to deal with the increased administrative burden.
“Crucially, this proposal offers nothing to deal with the tariff issue – it makes WTO terms the default after December 2020 if a comprehensive free trade agreement is not concluded, meaning tariffs which can be as high as 65% on beef, 35% on dairy and between 15-25% for baked goods.
“We are also concerned by proposals for Stormont to approve the process every four years.
“We have always held the view that we need input into future regulations that affect us, but this proposal would only serve to increase uncertainty with either side being given a veto every four years, and would have a direct impact on investment plans.
“Food and drink is a growing sector in Northern Ireland, made up of businesses of all sizes with strong potential.
“NIFDA’s priority is to ensure continuity and certainty for these businesses, and that means continuing to have unfettered access to and frictionless trade with our closest markets north-south and east-west.
“These proposals are a step in the right direction, but it is vital that talks continue if we are to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit.”