Collaboration is needed to manage impact of regulatory divergence in Northern Ireland

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Marcus Millo
© GettyImages/Marcus Millo

Related tags Northern Ireland Windsor Framework border Brexit

The Windsor Framework has been welcomed as a ‘step forward’ but collaboration is needed to manage regulatory divergence which remains a concern, says Gill Gallagher chief executive of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA).

The organisation represents Northern Ireland based feed manufacturers, producers, supplement businesses and distributors, with many of them being all-Ireland in terms of trade, supplying both North and South.  

“Because it is all-Ireland trade, unfettered access to the European single market is such a priority for us,” she told us. 

The organisation had been quite concerned about the proposed Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which has now been dropped, and its proposal for a dual regulatory regime, which would have allowed companies to conform to either European or UK regulations. NIGTA believed that it would have been impossible, in such a scenario, to avoid non-compliant products leaking across the border, which would have undermined the integrity of the supply chain. 

“I think [another positive] in terms of the Windsor Framework is that relations between Europe and the UK have visibly improved and we would very much hope that is a sign that pragmatic solutions can be found to the outstanding issues that are being worked on,” she said. 

Veterinary agreement

While the trade group has recognised that regulatory divergence is an “inevitable consequence” of Brexit, it is calling for some form of veterinary agreement allowing the UK and EU to mutually recognise each other’s standards as sufficient. 

“We need to find a way of managing this divergence and to do that we need to make sure there is good communication and a good feedback loop from business through to the officials,” said Gallagher.

“The Windsor Framework makes provision for structured sub groups and specifically references that they must engage with business and stakeholders. We would be very supportive of that and want to make sure those structured sub groups do get up and running and do make a genuine effort to engage with business. If we can have effective structures and good communication channels, we hope that will alleviate some of the potential risks associated with regulatory divergence," she added.

NIGTA is a member of the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group of 14 different trade bodies, which has been able to work with officials to bring understanding to issues and highlight any concerns. 

Related topics Regulation Europe

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