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UK supermarkets call for Windsor Framework clarity

It is absolutely critical labelling issues raised by the Windsor Framework are resolved ahead of an October deadline, a group representing British supermarkets has said.

The framework was agreed by the EU and UK in February.

It is intended to ease post-Brexit trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The British Retail Consortium said the government needs to provide clarity before the deadline.

Andrew Opie, from the organisation, told a House of Lords committee he expects the first guidance on labelling will be published in the next 10 days, after the Northern Ireland council elections.

The Windsor Framework aims to significantly reduce the number of checks required on goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland by introducing a system of green and red lanes at Northern Ireland ports.

Numbers wouldn't stack up

Labelling is a key issue for businesses because it will determine whether or not they can trade in the red or green lane.

The green lanes will be for British goods staying in Northern Ireland, and labelled 'not for EU', while goods travelling into the Republic of Ireland - and so the EU - will use the red lane.

Products going through the green lane will not need checks and will require minimal paperwork while red lane goods would still be subject to checks.

"Labelling is one of the requirements of using the green lane, so if we don't know how to label the products then we shouldn't be using the green lane and would be subject to all the checks," said Mr Opie.

"You couldn't run a commercial supermarket by running all of their trade through the red lane, it just wouldn't work, the numbers wouldn't stack up."

As labelling changes take months, he said, supermarkets need urgent clarity.

He added that a big concern is that they do not know how to move food in a way that will be compliant and that some retailers are already looking to see what is feasible to send to Northern Ireland from October.

His message was echoed by Glyn Roberts, from Retail NI, who said "so much more clarity" is needed for his members in Northern Ireland ahead of the "fast-approaching" October deadline.

He also called for more engagement with business groups, as a lot of political engagement has either slowed down or stopped.

Declan Gormley, managing director of Dunmurry-based manufacturer Brookvent, told the committee his business exports about 75% of its products.

He said these changes will be difficult to work in practice if you sell to 11 different countries and suggested it might be easier for some manufacturers to just put everything through the red lane.


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