Northern Ireland news

DUP and Sinn Féin letter to European Commission amid concerns over food supplies post-Brexit

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

THE DUP and Sinn Féin have sent a joint letter to the European Commission warning that any threats to Northern Ireland's food supplies post-Brexit are "unacceptable".

In the letter, signed by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, they say urgent action to resolve the issues in the Northern Ireland Protocol should not be dependent on trade negotiations.

They highlight the issues surrounding the need for checks and controls on food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain after December 31 and how that might impact on the supply of food to supermarket chains.

"It is hard to imagine a more fundamental aspect of everyday life than the purchase of daily food supplies," they wrote.

"Hence, we would ask you to recognise how important it is that the current consideration of the detail of how the Protocol will be applied takes our unique context into account."

In the letter to the EU's representative on the Joint Committee, European Commission Vice President Maroš Šef?ovi?, they said: "Last week, there was a meeting that included representatives from our main supermarkets here.

"These representatives have emphasised how critical the current situation is, with a real threat to the continuity of the supply of existing food and other products to our market unless these issues are urgently addressed and solutions found.

"This is an unacceptable situation for us to be in, especially so late in the process."

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister also say in the letter that they welcome the "constructive work both sides have been doing to seek a pragmatic application of the principles and purpose of the SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) controls and we commit our own officials to play as full and positive part in this process as may be possible".

They refer to the "best endeavours" clause within the protocol, which they say "can and must secure an outcome which guarantees the normal flow of agri-food products to our people".

The ministers say any outcome that would lead to "material price increases and/ or reduced choice for consumers would be an unacceptable consequence which cannot have been the intention of anyone when the Withdrawal Agreement was settled".

They add that they "recognise clearly the absolute importance of the SPS controls to the European Commission and the Member States and we would want to make it clear that we are not asking for anything that would create any form of health risk".

"In any case, we are doing all that is possible to ensure that the necessary processes will be in operation to ensure goods can flow through our ports of entry at the end of the Transition Period," they said.

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