A deal to improve the post-EU Exit trading relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an ‘encouraging step’ for UK-wide agri-supply businesses, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) has said.
On Monday February 27, UK prime minster, Rishi Sunak, announced the deal with the EU to address long-standing issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs how trade operates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK since the withdrawal from the EU in 2020.
For the three years since the UK's withdrawal, Northern Ireland has in effect remained a part of the EU's customs union, meaning goods imported from Great Britain must undergo customs checks, placing a significant strain on supply chains.
Green and red lanes
Under the ‘Windsor Framework’, certain goods shipped from Great Britain for use in Northern Ireland will use a so-called ‘green lane’ and will no longer be subject to EU customs checks and export declarations.
The new agreement suggests seed and animal feed for agricultural use in Northern Ireland will be included, reported the AIC.
Goods deems as ‘at risk’ of proceeding into the EU customs union in the Republic of Ireland will use a ‘red lane’ where checks will still apply.
Reacting to the announcement, AIC CEO, Robert Sheasby said: "AIC has been conveying the stark trading difficulties that agri-supply businesses face to officials at the Cabinet Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for several years now.
"Working with our members, we have urged the government to reach an agreement with the EU to ease the regulatory burden for agri-supply businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland - particularly those trading seed and feed materials.
"A deal which seeks to improve the flow of trade by minimising customs check and administrative processes is an encouraging step forward, and we welcome the political will to address this issue. Though we wait to see how the detail of the agreement will apply in practice, it appears that concerns over trade friction regarding seed and animal feed have been addressed.
"To improve trade further, the government should now help businesses by establishing a system to track regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which has arisen since the signing of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement."