// Big 4 grocers warn of empty shelves in Northern Ireland if government does not provide clarity about their trading status when the Brexit transition period ends
// There are currently concerns that it would not be possible to stock certain items from January 1
// Northern Ireland is expected to abide by EU rules after the Brexit transition period ends
Supermarkets have warned that their shops in Northern Ireland could end up with empty shelves unless the government provides clarity about their trading status when the Brexit transition period ends.
There are currently concerns that it would not be possible to stock certain items from the new year, as existing European Union rules would make it illegal to transport the produce from Britain to Northern Ireland.
The requirement for 24 hours of pre-notification for the transfer of goods has been deemed as “impractical” for fresh food.
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Big 4 grocer Sainsbury’s could see as much as 40 per cent of its grocery ranges in Northern Ireland affected, including its meat, fish and dairy products, while Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe has demanded “urgent clarity over a number of administrative issues”.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said there was “a wide range of restricted products that would be at risk”.
The Northern Ireland protocol is formed to remove the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic to the south.
Northern Ireland is expected to abide by EU rules after the Brexit transition period ends.
Last Thursday, the Northern Ireland specialised committee, one of several set up under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, reached an accord on the regulation for medicines and the VAT treatment of Northern Ireland’s traders, but the government admitted that there remained “significant outstanding issues to be resolved”.
Food and Drink Federation head of international trade Dominic Goudie said: “It puts businesses in an untenable position. They are certain they can’t legally continue exporting.”
Meanwhile, a UK government spokesman said the government is working with supermarkets on this issue and discussions continue with the EU.
“The UK and the EU have committed to an intensified process of engagement to resolve all outstanding issues with the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.