Retailers in Northern Ireland have said that they are 'concerned' and 'frustrated' at the lack of progress made in the Brexit negotiations, and are fearful of the repercussions that lack of clarity could have on the sector.
"Now is the time for progress not politics," commented Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.
"There is concern and frustration that we are just over five months from the end of the transition period and there is still not the clarity and detail that we need," he added.
Northern Ireland Protocol
His comments follow the publication of a cross-party document that condemns the UK government's 'political approach' to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which would see Northern Ireland remain part of the UK's customs territory as well as continuing to follow EU customs law and regulations on goods, in order to avoid a hard border.
In their report, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which includes members of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland (Conservative, Labour, SDLP, Alliance and DUP), said that the time to prepare new customs arrangements is narrowing, particularly at a time when resources are stretched by COVID-19.
'Business needs to know what it is they are preparing for or they will be faced with delays and costs that could make them unviable,' the Committee said.
The UK government has set a 1 October deadline to provide details of the processes and documents required for trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and the Committee has called for greater clarity on how the promised 'unfettered access' to both markets will be achieved.
Failure to act, according to chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Simon Hoare, would "put Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage compared with the rest of the UK and would damage business confidence at a time when it has seldom been lower."
Choice And Affordability
Echoing the Committee's comments, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium's Connolly said, “We have always argued that is necessary for unfettered access from NI to both the EU and GB markets to allow us to continue to provide NI and GB households with choice and affordability. That is not what we have at the moment.
"We need the UK Government to be ambitious in asking for a certified supply chain solution that would remove friction for goods destined for retailers’ shelves which account for 70% of the value of all GB-NI movements.
Failure to get these mitigations would mean that the "most economically vulnerable" in society would be affected the most, due to the inevitable cost increases that would arise.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.