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2 Feb, 2021 18:00

Brexit grace periods must be extended to ensure supplies reach Northern Irish supermarkets, says UK’s Gove

Brexit grace periods must be extended to ensure supplies reach Northern Irish supermarkets, says UK’s Gove

Grace periods for new Brexit rules should be extended to give businesses more time to adapt, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday, following delays on goods entering Northern Ireland due to border checks.

“We do need to make sure grace periods are extended so that supermarkets can continue to provide consumers with goods they need,” Gove told MPs, adding that he would not call the disruption to imports “teething problems,” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson had.

Gove’s comments come amid ongoing delays in many fresh goods from the UK mainland reaching supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland due to complex new paperwork and border checks as part of the Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU.

New trading rules governing Britain and Northern Ireland came in on January 1, 2021, but a number of grace periods of up to six months were also established to give businesses time to get used to the new rules.

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The first grace period expires at the end of March, but many UK businesses have already warned the government that “urgent intervention” is needed to ensure supply chains are not disrupted after that point.

In an open letter to Gove, the CEOs of the UK’s major supermarket chains last month called for the UK and EU to renegotiate customs rules for Northern Ireland after border delays resulted in short supplies for many household products.

Gove said at the time the government would “make it clear” to the EU what the consequences would be if supermarkets were not able to trade properly in Northern Ireland after March 31.

Part of the trouble at borders has been caused by paperwork the EU requires for products of animal origin, like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy entering Northern Ireland from Britain.

Also on rt.com EU to withdraw staff from Northern Irish ports amid security fears and threats against border workers

These goods are subject to sanitary and phytosanitary checks and suppliers are required to obtain an Export Health Certificate (EHC), a document signed off by a vet or another expert.

The ‘Northern Ireland protocol’ effectively places a border in the Irish Sea between Britain, which is no longer in the EU’s single market, and Northern Ireland, which currently remains in the single market.

On Tuesday, the EU withdrew its staff from the Northern Irish ports of Larne and Belfast, citing security concerns, following threatening behaviour against them by people opposed to the protocol and an Irish Sea border.

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Ministry had already imposed a temporary suspension on the inspection of products of animal origin at the two ports after an “upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour in recent weeks.”

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