The UK government has announced another delay on the introduction of new rules governing goods entering Great Britain from the island of Ireland.
In September, the UK pushed back controls – including those on food products – set to be implemented in October to January and July next year, angering the country’s food manufacturers.
In a statement today, Lord Frost, the UK’s Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and who is overseeing the country’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU, said the current arrangements governing the movement of goods would be extended “on a temporary basis”. The fresh delay comes amid ongoing talks between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Under the timetable set out in September, the requirements for pre-notification of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods, which were due to be introduced on 1 October, were pushed back to 1 January 2022.
New rules on export health certificates, which had also been set for 1 October, were delayed to 1 July next year.
Phytosanitary certificates and physical checks on SPS goods at border control posts, due to be introduced on New Year’s Day, were also pushed back to the start of July. The same delay was brought in for safety and security declarations on imports.
At the time, London said “full customs declarations and controls will be introduced on 1 January 2022 as previously announced”.
Lord Frost said today: “Implementing these arrangements for goods moving from the island of Ireland, whether from Ireland or from Northern Ireland, is particularly complex. This is because there are specific Treaty and legislative commitments to “unfettered access” for goods from Northern Ireland because there are currently “standstill” arrangements in place for operating the Northern Ireland Protocol, and because negotiations on the Protocol itself are still underway and will not be definitively completed by 1 January.
“Given this wider uncertainty and complexity, and the undesirability of bringing in new changes while the Protocol arrangements themselves remain unsettled and while diversion of trade is already occurring, the Government has decided that the right thing is to extend, on a temporary basis, the current arrangements for moving goods from the island of Ireland to Great Britain for as long as discussions on the Protocol are ongoing.
“This means that goods moving from the island of Ireland directly to Great Britain will continue to do so on the basis of the arrangements that apply currently, until further notice; and will not, for now, be affected by the changes being introduced on 1 January for all other inbound goods.”
He added: “The Government believes that this pragmatic act of goodwill can help to maintain space for continued negotiations on the Protocol. It also ensures that traders in both Ireland and Northern Ireland are not faced with further uncertainty while the Protocol arrangements themselves are still under discussion. These arrangements are temporary and we will continue to keep them under review as negotiations on the Protocol continue. We will ensure traders have sufficient time to adapt to any future changes.”
Just Food has approached The Food and Drink Federation, the trade body for food and soft-drink manufacturers operating in the UK, for comment.