The decision to suspend Brexit checks on animal products and food items moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has laid bare that parts of the Brexit deal are unworkable and require change, says leading London accountancy firm Blick Rothenberg.
Alex Altmann, a partner and the head of the firm’s Brexit advisory group, says: “The challenges of introducing a new customs sea border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been discussed for many years. We have been calling for a phased implementation and the Government could have avoided this car crash. It is concerning that the people of Northern Ireland still had to go through the chaos, and it is now time for a comprehensive review and overhaul of the NI protocol.
“It is positive that the EU Commission is acknowledging that the arrangements of the NI protocol are not working and causing major trouble for businesses and the local community. Everybody understands that the EU requires agriculture and food checks to protect its product standards of the single market. However, the risk of importing low-quality food items a few weeks after the UK has left the single market is very low. An implementation period of one or two years should have been announced at the very beginning of this.”
Altmann adds: “The NI protocol has created a customs border in the Irish sea to avoid a customs border on the island of Ireland. To make this work checks on certain products that move between GB and NI must be carried out. The political situation obviously makes it difficult for physical checks to be performed at the ports in Northern Ireland and these checks should therefore be performed at ports in Great Britain before the goods leave to Northern Ireland.
“Another unworkable feature of the NI protocol is the complex dual VAT and Customs regime, which considers that Northern Ireland stays part of the EU single market, but part of the wider UK common market as well. Even trade and customs specialists struggle to understand the new rules, which appear to be unworkable for businesses and freight carriers. The UK Government should acknowledge that a dual VAT and Customs system in Northern Ireland is not working, and a simpler, more streamlined solution must be found.
“The Northern Ireland protocol is not the only part of the Brexit deal that is not working. The new customs border rules between GB and the EU are causing major disruption as well, costing British businesses millions. We need a phased implementation of these arrangements as well to help businesses adapting to the new reality.”