Move towards breakthrough on food and animal checks to be welcomed, as Protocol agreement edges closer

16 February 2023, Ciaran Donaghy

CIEH has welcomed reports that a breakthrough has almost been reached between UK and EU negotiators regarding checks on goods moving between Great Britain (GB) and Northern Ireland (NI) but has demanded clarity on how this will work in practice.

CIEH has already highlighted the possibility of deploying Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) to help support port authorities responsible for conducting food and animal health checks on such goods. This goes hand in hand with the need for greater funding of in-land local authority food safety teams who will be placed under greater pressure to monitor such goods to ensure food safety standards are being maintained.

The reported breakthrough, which suggests that there will be the creation of a new ‘green and red lane’ system of checks on goods moving between GB and NI, potentially removes one of the last major stumbling blocks in the ongoing dispute between the UK and the EU with regards to the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Goods moving from GB destined to stay within NI would go through a ‘green lane’ and be subject to lighter checks at Northern Ireland’s ports compared to goods that are destined to make their way south to the Republic of Ireland going through the ‘red lane’ which would require much stricter checks.  

Such a move would require products moving between GB and NI to be appropriately labelled as suitable for NI only, will require appropriate monitoring by NI officials to ensure goods intended solely for the NI market remain there to prevent food crime, and will also require appropriate checks to be made by local authority food safety teams to ensure that such goods adhere to EU food safety standards.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH, said:

“We at CIEH cautiously welcome the news that a resolution to this ongoing dispute over the Protocol is one step closer with this breakthrough on food and animal checks. 

The creation of a ‘green and red lane’ system of checks is a sensible and pragmatic approach that both reduces needless friction on the movement of goods whilst ensuring standards are being maintained.

However, as is always the case with these matters, we await to see the fine print as to the precise nature of these checks, and seek assurances that local authorities will be appropriately resourced to ensure they are equipped to enforce any new regulations. 

Finally, CIEH wish to highlight the role that EHOs have historically played in conducting food and animal health checks at border control posts in the past, and to suggest that EHOs stand ready to fulfil this role once more in supporting port authorities with this vital work.”

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