Irish officials are working with the European Commission to avoid a potential “two-way ban” on meat products moving between Ireland and the UK.
A change in the rules after Brexit means certain chilled and processed meat products – such as sausages and mince – would not be allowed to enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
This is because Britain will be regarded as a third country by the EU from January 1, while Northern Ireland will continue to operate EU food safety rules under the protocol signed in October last year.
In recent weeks, the UK has indicated it will implement a reciprocal ban on such products coming from Ireland, potentially disrupting the meat trade between the two islands.
Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue described the issue as “concerning” and said he is working with the European Commission to resolve it.
He told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “This is an issue that has emerged over the last number of weeks and something that officials in my own department have been working with European Commission officials to discuss.
“Obviously it is something which is concerning, it’s a reflection of the many issues which Brexit is causing.
“There’s going to be significant work then required in the weeks ahead as well to ensure that trade is as smooth and as efficient as possible on the first of January.”
I spoke with @DrGavinJennings on @morningireland this morning on the critical need to secure a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the UK to safeguard the integrity of our All Island food nation as well as our protecting our farmers and fishermen and women. pic.twitter.com/1OyQOn7ox3
— Charlie McConalogue (@McConalogue) November 24, 2020
Mr McConalogue acknowledged that even if the issue is resolved before Brexit, there will be an additional administrative burden on companies wishing to export to the UK.
He said: “This issue is specific to chilled, processed meats. Across the board, from the first of January, regardless of whether there’s a free trade agreement, there’s going to be significant changes come the first of January in that Britain will become a third country.
“That does put additional administrative requirements on all countries exporting to Britain. It means that they need to have their paperwork and their processing systems in place to ensure that they are prepared for that.
“I wrote just last week to some 20,000 food companies and small-medium enterprises, emphasising the importance of everyone looking at their supply chains, and also looking particularly at the process and requirements that are going to be on them from the first of January.”
He refused to rule out export health certificates being required for meat products going to the UK.
He said: “There will need to be documentation put in place for all exports going to Britain, after the 1st of January.
“It varies across different products, there will be additional certification required, certainly different to what it is at the moment when Britain is part of the EU.
“Each company does need to look at what is going to be required from them. Critical to all this as well is the completion of a good trade deal in the next, short period of time.
“If we don’t have that, that will obviously make trade a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive and mean tariffs for many products too. We are working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen.”