M&S chairman attacks Brexit red tape, claims it has cost retailer £30m

M&S chair attacks ‘pointless’ post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland
“Marks & Spencer is a big company, we can make almost anything work," - Norman.
// Marks & Spencer chair Archie Norman has slammed “pointless” rules affecting business in Ireland following Brexit
// Norman told the BBC that since Brexit, exporting to Ireland now took 30% more driver time

M&S chairman Archie Norman has backed government plans to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, stating that some food exported south of the border now needs 700 pages of customs documents, partly written in Latin, since Brexit.

Norman spoke on the BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme and condemned the bureaucracy involved in transporting foods to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Norman, a former Conservative MP, called on the UK government and EU to come to an agreement, saying the rules for sending food between them were “highly bureaucratic and pretty pointless” given that British food standards were in line with or higher than those of Brussels.


Norman said: “At the moment, wagons arriving in the Republic of Ireland have to carry 700 pages of documentation it takes eight hours to prepare the documentation some of the descriptors, particularly of animal products, have to be written in Latin. It has to be in a certain typeface.”

He explained that the UK government’s proposal to override parts of the agreement signed as part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and remove checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea was a “triumph of common sense over rules-based mentality” and “will make sure at a time of inflation that the Northern Ireland people can get the fresh food they are used to and are entitled to”.

Norman told the BBC that since Brexit, exporting to Ireland now took 30% more driver time and required the employment of 13 vets in Motherwell, Scotland, to oversee the required checks and paperwork, costing M&S an additional £30m. “It’s very onerous,” he told the Today programme.

The protocol requires similar rules to be imposed on goods travelling between mainland UK and Northern Ireland, but the checks are currently being held off under a series of “easements”.

Removing those easements would mean “that every piece of butter in a sandwich has to have an EU vet’s certificate”, Norman said.

“The EU are looking for us to impose comparable controls for Northern Ireland and were that to happen it would mean that quite a lot of products from the UK simply wouldn’t get to Northern Ireland and what does go there would be very very costly,” Norman said.

“Marks & Spencer is a big company, we can make almost anything work, however bureaucratic, but for the small artisan cheesemaker or cake baker it would simply be impossible to export any more.”

Norman said an EU proposal that every product going from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland must be specifically labelled as only for consumption in the UK, for example, would cost M&S £9m a year alone.

He said finding a solution was important and warned that food prices could rise by as much as 10% this year.

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  1. Is M&S due a trade update some time soon? As every time one is due stories start appearing thick and fast from the company about blaming everyone else for there problems. All the failures are some one else’s doings but success are always their own. The company reminds me very much of a f1 racing driver always some reason why it’s never there fault the car slow blaming regulations, the track, the weather, the tyres , engine power list goes on like M&S will blame brexit, oil/ petrol prices, cost of living, the government, the weather, covid.


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