An extension to the 'grace period' between the EU and UK over chilled meats entering Northern Ireland is a welcome step, but there is still "frustration" felt across the business sector that this matter cannot be resolved, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has said.
The European Union and UK agreed to the three-month extension yesterday, bringing a temporary halt to the so-called 'sausage war', however the bloc is still concerned that the UK is lagging in terms of implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
What Happens Next?
Commenting on the extended grace period, Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said, “While it is good to see the EU and the UK cooperating on this issue and reaching agreement, this is, in trade terms, a peripheral matter.
"The most pressing issue is the fate of the thousands of food products moving daily from GB to NI, which will be subject to extensive controls when that grace period ends in October. We are no closer to a decision by both sides on this."
Connolly said that a number of technical solutions to the matter were possible, including a 'trusted trader' scheme, however there "does not seem to be the political will to deliver them".
He urged that both sides "live up to their commitments and find a pragmatic solution to ensure NI consumers continue to get access to both the choice and affordability in the food they need. Yet again, the clock is ticking.”
Adapting Supply Chains
Speaking to Irish news portal RTÉ yesterday, a senior EU official said that the grace period is being extended to enable retailers in Northern Ireland to adapt their supply chains.
"The supply chains have adapted but not sufficiently, and that's why the UK wrote to us requesting an extension," he said.
"The further extension we are announcing today will allow stakeholders, and in particular supermarkets in Northern Ireland, to complete the adjust of their supply chains."
Elsewhere, the UK's Brexit minister David Frost welcomed the extension, saying, "This is a positive first step, but we still need to agree a permanent solution. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and its consumers should be able to enjoy products they have bought from Great Britain for years."