// M&S customers from Northern Ireland could see higher prices if EU customs rules come into force later this year as planned
// Northern Ireland trade could also be affected once current light-touch export checks end
Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman has warned that its Northern Ireland customers will see higher prices and less choice if European Union customs rules are implemented later this year as planned.
The retailer has already warned that it will be cutting Christmas products across Northern Ireland due to concerns over looming post-Brexit customs checks.
Norman told BBC’s Radio Four Today programme that the current “pointless” checks with the Republic of Ireland were “threatening” to its business.
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He called for a “common sense approach to enforcement.”
With more than 4,000 staff across the region Norman said M&S was one of the largest UK-based retailers operating in Ireland as a whole and played “a disproportionate role” in Northern Ireland.
Because Northern Ireland is still part of the EU’s single market for goods, deliveries from the United Kingdom to the territory and Republic of Ireland have required EU export documentation from January 1.
In March, a three-month grace period was introduced, exempting the need for documentation for goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK although this runs out at the end of September.
Norman warned that Northern Ireland trade could also be affected once these current light-touch export checks end.
“There is no other outcome for consumers in Northern Ireland in the end other than higher prices, given the inflationary pressures being put on to retailers by the regulatory regime,” Norman wrote.
“Being able to keep the show on the road, let alone growing, is going to be very challenging,” he added.
The government is expected to warn the EU that it is prepared to overrule Northern Ireland Protocol if a simplified agreement cannot be reached.
Brexit minister Lord Frost is expected to explain the government’s proposals in a statement to parliament later today.