Ireland will have to apply border controls on food after no-deal Brexit, UK group says

‘Hard to exaggerate disruption’ no-deal scenario would cause, says food research group

In a no-deal Brexit, every food consignment crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic would have to be accompanied by an Export Health Certificate. File photograph: Getty

In a no-deal Brexit, every food consignment crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic would have to be accompanied by an Export Health Certificate. File photograph: Getty

 

Ireland will be legally obliged to apply border controls to food entering the country from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Food Research Collaboration (FRC) has warned.

In a briefing document published this evening, the body – which comprises academics and food-related organisations in the UK – also said it was “hard to exaggerate the disruption” this scenario would cause.

“It has been suggested by some food businesses in Northern Ireland that in these circumstances they could go out of business within three days,” the FRC said.

It also warned “criminals will be waiting to exploit any weaknesses in food safety systems or EU perimeter controls that emerge as a result of Brexit”, and said raised prices and restricted supply were most likely to impact fruit and vegetables.

The warning is contained in the paper, Food, No Deal and the Irish Border, which is the latest in a series by the FRC which explores the implications of Brexit for the food industry.

Dr Rosalind Sharpe, from the FRC, said the food sectors on both sides of the Border have “quietly integrated” since the Belfast Agreement.

“Farms and food businesses, from the giant to the micro, depend on being able to ship goods easily across the Border.

“A no-deal Brexit pulls the rug from under them. Some could go out of business within days,” she said.

The document highlighted the logistical impossibility of fulfilling the physical/veterinary, documentary and identification checks which would be required by the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In such a scenario, every food consignment crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic would have to be accompanied by an Export Health Certificate, which is required by the EU for all products of animal origin that are being imported to the EU from a third country.

“Given the number of businesses involved, the frequency and volume of documentation required, and the current resources available to carry out the work, servicing the anticipated demand is not feasible, and certainly not by 31 October,” the FRC stated.

“There are insufficient qualified professionals, and insufficient time and resources to recruit and train new ones.

“In these circumstances, food consumers in NI will experience disruption, public authorities will be severely tested, and food enterprises will face potentially insurmountable challenges.”

The paper makes a number of recommendations, including avoiding a no-deal Brexit and ensuring Northern Ireland has “effective government and governance” in place, “preferably through the restoration of the NI institutions but if not through a form of direct rule”.

“These arrangements are necessary to safeguard public health and avoid threats to food security,” it warned.