Brexit and the ‘Backstop’
Comment from Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
“Given our land border with the EU and our reliance on export markets, it is clear that we face unique challenges posed by Brexit. It is important to stress that whilst Great Britain imports 50% of its food and drink, Northern Ireland exports 80%, so we are particularly sensitive to any potential barriers to export.
“The ideal outcome for the industry would be that we can continue to trade with the EU as normal – without any changes to tariffs and standards. We have submitted technical papers to the government on behalf of the industry to advise on the particular issues which face the NI agri-food sector and we have provided information on solutions that would minimise disruption to trade.
“We are actively involved in engaging with government to avoid a no-deal situation at all costs as this would be devastating to our industry and would result in immediate chaos along the supply chain. We currently have no reassurances about our ability to continue frictionless trade with other key markets post-Brexit. It is very difficult to develop solid contingency plans whenever there has been little to no information about what will happen after March 29th. Businesses cannot invest in alternative arrangements when they don’t know what those arrangements should be!
“As a representative body for the leading agri-food businesses in Northern Ireland, we have voiced our support for the backstop as it offers vital assurances to our members. We recognise that some amendments may be required to the current backstop proposal, and we are happy to engage with politicians as they continue to seek a solution.”
NIFDA is a voluntary organisation committed to helping Northern Ireland food and drink companies compete successfully and to representing and promoting their interests. It was established to provide services to enhance, promote, inform, educate and develop our members’ business.
NIFDA’s vision is a strong and united membership working together towards a sustainable and growing internationally competitive food and drink industry in Northern Ireland. We are committed to maximising the growth potential of the industry and growing turnover to £7bn by 2020 by export led growth.
What is the backstop?
The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.
At present, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland with few restrictions.
The UK and Ireland are currently part of the EU single market and customs union, so products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards.