NZ meat exporters face post-Brexit barriers in Northern Ireland

New Zealand meat exporters are losing patience over their inability to get product into Northern Ireland after Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Post-Brexit, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) no longer follows EU rules on product standards, but Northern Ireland does – partly because it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

The NZ Meat Industry Association’s (MIA) senior manager strategy, trade policy and advocacy, Esther Guy-Meakin said Northern Ireland was an important part of the supply chain for the NZ-UK imported meat trade.

“For us it is also a point of principle because this is part of the UK’s obligations and the unilateral decision to not allow New Zealand product to enter via Northern Ireland, from our perspective, is not consistent with those obligations,” she said.

From the UK perspective, there is a risk that meat could be onsold into the EU market and therefore avoid customs requirements.

Guy-Meakin said Northern Ireland is an important landing port for New Zealand meat but that the MIA was “just not getting any traction” with UK authorities.

Much of what lands in Northern Ireland is distributed to the UK.

The MIA says that since Brexit onJanuary 1, Kiwi exporters have been unable to get their product into Northern Ireland because of an administrative decision by the United Kingdom not to allow New Zealand to use its World Trade Organisation tariff rate quota access.

Because of the rules and procedures laid down in the Northern Ireland Protocol, third-country product is considered to be “at risk” of entering the European Union “through the back door” and accordingly UK authorities have said New Zealand cannot utilise quota access into Northern Ireland in order to manage this risk.

Under the circumstances, exporters are potentially liable up-front for the full and considerable cost of over-quota tariffs, even though this is in direct breach of the UK’s WTO obligations, the MIA says.

UK officials have, since the beginning of February, promised “imminent resolution” only to delay further once the deadline passes, Guy-Meakin says.

New Zealand meat exports to the UK are worth about $500 million a year.

The UK is also New Zealand’s second-biggest market for sheepmeat, after China.

Trade minister Damien O’Connor said the Government had been active from the outset in pressing the UK Government to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

“This has included active representations by the High Commission in London; regular follow up by officials in London, in Wellington, and in the relevant WTO Committees in Geneva,” O’Connor said in a statement to the Herald.

“I have steadily raised the issue with my UK Ministerial counterparts in my interactions with them since becoming Trade Minister to underline how serious it is and the need for urgent action to address the problem,” he said.

O’Connor said the issue was an “important focus” when he met in London meeting his International Trade and Agriculture counterparts, as well the Cabinet Office’s Lord Frost – who has prime responsibility within the UK Government for issues concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The UK has assured us they too are working to see this resolved as quickly as possible – while noting the particular complexity and challenge involved in implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.

“Given this, we are not currently considering other options for resolution; but will be continuing to press hard to get this issue fixed in short order,” O’Connor said.

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