NI could face ‘substantial reduction in food supply’, warns M&S chairman

The chairman of Marks and Spencer has warned that Northern Ireland could face “substantial reduction in the food supply” and higher prices this year, as Brexit impacts imports.

In an article for The Mail on Sunday, Archie Norman said supply chain issues incoming into Northern Ireland are “about to get worse”, with the protocol fully implemented on September 30.

M&S already had to cancel sales for Christmas in Northern Ireland because “we just don’t know if we can get it there,” Norman said.

He said: “This is not a one-way street. At the moment, the Irish government is following EU guidelines and implementing their draconian controls. But by contrast, the UK has allowed EU products to continue to flow into the country, with no veterinary checks, no border inspection.

READ MORE: Food and drink sector warns of Christmas crisis due to worker shortages

“Starting in October, that is going to change when UK government rules are set to mirror those of the EU.”

Norman added that the EU’s “out-of-date” rules for the movement of food from third countries were designed over a decade ago by BSE and salmonella food scares and constructed to deal with cross-sea container ships carrying long-life or frozen food.

“In a pre-digital era, they relied on paper documents and physical checks and inspections,” he said.

He revealed only 80 per cent of products are getting through to Northern Ireland, and even less in France, despite M&S lorries travelling to ports with 700 pages of documentation.

He said the result is a “fandango of bureaucracy, extra costs and food waste”, as any product containing animal-related ingredients must have a stamped paper veterinary certificate coming in from outside the EU.

As a result, Norman is calling for an ‘equivalent’ deal, where the EU and UK recognise each other’s standards, so trade can occur “without checks”.

He said: ” In a rational world, we would all agree on equivalence tomorrow. Given there are no significant changes planned on food standards, a period of equivalence would be in everyone’s interest, should common sense have its day.”

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