Boris Johnson has said there are “teething problems” regarding trade between Britain and Northern Ireland in the wake of exiting the Brexit transition period. However, the Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee that things were running “smoothly”. Labour former minister Hilary Benn questioned Mr Johnson on whether he would extend the three-month grace period for Export Health Certificates for trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
In the Liaison Committee, Mr Benn asked: “Can you guarantee that the in supermarkets in both Ireland and Northern Ireland that the grace period will be extended after the end of March?”
Mr Johnson replied: “What I can certainly guarantee is if there are serious problems in supplying supermarkets in Northern Ireland because of some piece of bureaucracy that’s misapplied then we will simply exercise Article 16 of the protocol.
“It’s absurd that there should be such difficulties.
“We will make sure that supplies continue.
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“It goes without saying that any difficulties that remain will naturally fall away anyway because the people of Northern Ireland have to vote to retain the protocol in four years time.”
Mr Johnson declined to comment on the guarantee.
Supermarkets using more Northern Ireland products is one positive to emerge from the disruption to post-Brexit Irish Sea trade, Arlene Foster has said.
The First Minister again called on the UK Government to resolve issues that have hindered the flow of food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland since the end of the transition period.
Giving evidence to her Assembly scrutiny committee, Mrs Foster said: “I did notice that Sainsbury’s had taken some of the Spar products into their shops in Northern Ireland, I don’t see that as a negative.
“Sainsbury’s only get I think, the Daera (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) minister (Edwin Poots) was telling me, a very limited number of produce is from Northern Ireland that goes into the supermarkets in Northern Ireland.
“And therefore if they’re increasing the number of products from Northern Ireland in their supermarkets in Northern Ireland, I think that’s a really good thing actually because it shows that our produce is being able to take advantage of that.
“What I wouldn’t like to see is that consumers have a reduction in the number of ranges that they’re able to access and I think we’ve seen a little of that happening, and it’s something that we’ll be engaging with the supermarkets on.”