Retail NI Demands Answers Over ‘Supermarket Grace Period’
Retail NI has demanded immediate clarification from the UK Government on the three month ‘grace period’ for supermarkets announced by Michael Gove in his House of Commons statement, asking if it applies to local independent retailers and wholesalers?
This grace period will give supermarkets extra time to phase in new checks, ensuring food supplies from GB to NI do not face disruption from 1st January.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said “Following Michael Gove’s statement, Retail NI has asked for immediate clarification that the three-month supermarket grace period applies to our wholesale and independent retailer members”
‘At a meeting today with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I asked him directly if this applied to our members and he did not answer my question. Instead, an official gave a vague response that more information might be made available in the near future”
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the UK Government could make a major statement and not have this information available, which could potentially result in a third of our local independent food and grocery sector being at a competitive disadvantage to large supermarkets”
‘We only have just over 3 weeks to go until 1st January and thousands of local independent retailers deserve better than this from the UK Government”
“The Secretary of State needs to immediately address my question”
Brexit Deal – Progress made – but more to do, says NIRC
However the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has said that while progress has been made, there’s much more to do in support of Northern Ireland retailers and households. NIRC Director Aodhán Connolly said “Since the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement, we have been clear that the Northern Ireland Protocol was better than no deal.
Longterm workable solution
“However, to protect Northern Ireland households from unaffordable price rises and availability issues there needs to be long term workable solution that removes the myriad sources of friction.”
Supermarkets will be given a “grace period” to ensure food supplies from GB to NI do not face disruption from 1 January. This will give supermarkets time to adapt their systems to deal with new Brexit checks required by the EU.
It is part of the agreement reached between the UK and EU on how the new Irish Sea border will operate. The rules will apply regardless of whether the two sides can agree a trade deal.
“The agreement in principle to remove tariffs on goods going to Northern Ireland consumers is very welcome, and will remove one source of friction in the movement of goods between GB and NI” he said. “We are just days away from the end of the year and retailers are still unsure about the exact processes needed to move food to Northern Ireland. Therefore, the Government needs to assure them how this will be done without additional bureaucracy.
“There will also be considerable challenges in the medium term. The details of this agreement need to be the baseline for further deliberations and not the end result.
“The Joint Committee must fulfil the commitments of the UK and EU to the people of Northern Ireland, notably in the preamble to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and allow us to trade in a way that keeps costs down and ensures continued choice for NI families.”