Friday, June 5, 2020

Northern Irish Concerns Over Brexit Transition Period Continue

Logistics Lobby Says Urgent Government Attention Needed
Shipping News Feature

UK – It seems the deep divisions which have existed when it comes to the matter of the country exiting the European Union persist, even now Britain is officially out of the EU. More controversy arose this week when the Northern Irish Assembly at Stormont voted in favour of extending the Brexit transition period.

This of course is directly at odds with the UK government policy of having everything wrapped up by 31st December 2020. The option to extend saw the motion backed by a coalition of socialist, nationalist, green and Alliance parties and opposed by Unionists with the vote going 50/38 in favour of asking for an extension, although the vote is not binding on either the Northern Ireland Executive or British governments. The motion had been proposed by SDLP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Matthew O'Toole, who said:

"If we end this year with no trade deal and no extension to the transition, we could face the very real prospect of significant disruption to supply chains, not just between Calais and Dover but between Holyhead and Dublin, a route that is critical to the Northern Ireland market, and at Belfast and Larne."

Opponents stated that to extend would mean the UK being bound by EU rules and Northern Ireland needing extra import processes and checks for some goods entering from the mainland. The Northern Ireland Executive will reconsider the position in a fortnight’s time. Meanwhile across the Irish Sea business took an active part in discussions at a House of Lords Select Committee meeting.

Alongside the British Retail Consortium and the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association the Freight Transport Association (FTA) appeared this week alongside in the form of its Policy Manager for Northern Ireland, Seamus Leheny, to give evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee, again on the matter of Brexit. He said afterwards:

“With less than seven months until the end of the Brexit transition period, FTA and its members in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned by the lack of government engagement on the Protocol. The FTA is urging the government to engage with business organisations urgently so logistics businesses and operators can prepare for the successful implementation of the UK’s departure from the EU, which observes the rules of the NI Protocol.

”It is imperative that a fully functional working group be established immediately if the industry is to be ready for the post-Brexit trading environment on 1 January 2021. With the Covid-19 pandemic monopolising the industry’s attention, and following Stormont’s calls for an extension to the Brexit transition period, FTA is requesting an implementation period once an agreement has been reached between the EU and UK, in which all necessary preparations for EU departure can be made."

Photo: Ports such as Belfast could see extended checks and procedures (Courtesy Belfast Harbour).