Government’s proposed ‘trusted trader’ scheme could be anti-competitive

Government’s proposed ‘trusted trader’ scheme could be anti-competitive

The Westminster government’s new Northern Ireland Protocol proposes a Trusted Trader scheme – which could be proved to be ‘anti-competitive’ and have a corrosive effect on consumer choice, while hiking up prices.

The proposed ‘trusted trader’ scheme means eligible traders would have access to benefits which make the customs process for goods moving from one territory to another easier.

It suggests authorities in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would commit to applying appropriate schemes and could offer benefits to each other’s authorised traders.

While the easing of red tape on small and trusted traders could be beneficial, there is absolutely no guarantee such proposals would be workable in practice. In short, it could turn out to be a bureaucratic nightmare for UK exporters.

The ‘trusted trader’ scheme has been dubbed ‘the supermarket solution’ by some government officials. They claim the scheme could simplify customs checks and declarations that supermarkets have claimed could make their futures unviable. However the impact on smaller retailers and convenience stores could be dramatic.

Suppliers, wholesalers and convenience stores are now calling for the ‘trusted trader scheme’ to be extended to all food and drink coming in to Northern Ireland.

A group of high level industry figures have written to the government warning that restrictions on access to the scheme could mean supermarkets would potentially be the only option for businesses trading to Northern Ireland – thereby making supermarkets all powerful at the expense of smaller retailers.

In the letter, they outline how this could cause untold damage to wholesalers and convenience stores, as well as food and drink manufacturers in Northern Ireland.  It would be anti-competitive in that the proposed ‘trusted trader’ scheme would give privileged access to some. The disadvantaged parties could therefore need to resort to the Competititon and Markets Authority for redress.