Written answers

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Brexit Issues

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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467. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to ensure that the Northern Ireland Protocol is not used as a means to selectively target Irish food exports to the UK or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38944/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Ireland – Northern Ireland Protocol provides a legally operative solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday Agreement, and safeguards the integrity of the EU Single Market.

To achieve this, Northern Ireland will continue to apply the European Union’s Customs Code and will remain aligned to all EU legislation listed in Annex 2 of the Protocol, including the SPS rules of the Single Market. As a result, there are no new SPS checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

However, goods originating in Northern Ireland are of UK origin from a customs perspective. This means that Irish agri-food products containing inputs from Northern Ireland may not be able to avail of preferential tariff rates provided for in EU Free Trade Agreements with third countries. This specific issue essentially does not arise for exports to countries where no FTA exists, or for Irish food exports to the EU or the UK.

The Commission has been clear that existing FTAs cannot be renegotiated to account for Brexit. Future FTAs could have different rules of origin so as to prevent this issue arising, where strong economic justification can be made.

It’s important to be clear that this is not a case of the Protocol being used to selectively target Irish food exports. This issue would have arisen regardless of whether the Protocol was agreed or not and is a consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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468. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he and his Department are engaged in addressing Brexit related issues likely to impact on Irish food exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38945/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The UK is now operating outside the EU Single Market and Customs Union, and we are trading with the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) as we do with other non-EU countries.

The UK Government sets its own import policy, and is introducing new controls on imports from the EU on a phased basis. From 1st October 2021, export health certificates will be required to accompany products of animal origin to Great Britain, and pre-notification to the UK authorities will be necessary. Seamless trade with Great Britain is no longer possible, and impacts such as delays, additional costs and, potentially, adjustments to supply chains, are unavoidable.

To mitigate these impacts, the Department is progressing a range of activities to support Irish businesses exporting to GB. The Department has invested significantly in developing our IT systems to process documentation post-Brexit, and to putting the necessary staffing resources in place to support this work. Export health certification will be provided through the Department’s existing IT systems - systems that have been specifically developed for Brexit - and through the EU Trade Control And Expert System (TRACES).

Ongoing consultation and communications are also taking place with the industry, including logistics companies, in order to enhance its readiness. Trials are ongoing across a range of commodities with industry partners, and additional trials are planned throughout the summer. Learnings are being shared through case studies, webinars and direct engagement.

The Department also continues to engage regularly with the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, including at senior official level, to press for decisions on outstanding issues, including pre-notification periods and details to be pre-notified, certification queries, requirements for products transiting the landbridge, and Border Control Post infrastructure and procedures in British ports.

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