Brexit: 'Light touch approach' to Irish Sea border rules in first week

By John Campbell
BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

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NI's chief vet has told the food industry it will not face penalties for non-compliance with new Irish Sea border rules during the first week of 2021.

From 1 January, NI will stay in the EU single market for goods, but the rest of the UK will leave.

Food products arriving in NI from GB will be subject to new documentation and checks.

Dr Robert Huey has told the industry there will be also be a light touch approach to enforcement during the first week.

He said:"If you haven't got your certificate right, if you haven't got your seal right we'll offer you advice and do a few checks."

But he said that after that the approach to compliance would be toughened up.

He said: "After day seven...if there's non-compliance the consignment will have to return to the exporter to get those issues sorted."

Dr Huey added that in the unlikely event non-compliant goods were loaded onto a ferry and arrived in Northern Ireland they would either have to be sent back or destroyed.

He warned: "We will follow through on that, I have no option."

A piece of administration known as an Export Health Certificate (EHC) is central to the enforcement of EU food standards.

Products of animal origin - meat, milk, fish and eggs - normally need an EHC to enter the single market.

Image caption,
Dr Robert Huey said the approach to compliance on the rules would be toughened up after the first week of January

But this requirement will be waived for retail food shipments going from GB-NI during the first three months of 2021.

Instead, there will be a self-certification process for retailers.

Products which are not going to retailers, such as ingredients going to manufacturers and processors, will need an EHC.

Some chilled meat products, such as sausages, will also need an EHC from the start of January.

In a briefing to the agri-food industry, Dr Huey said comprehensive details of how pets can be moved back and forward across the Irish Sea would be announced shortly.

It is expected that pets from Northern Ireland will still be able to use the EU pet passport to travel to the EU or Great Britain.

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