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The European Union has announced a plan that would cut 80% of post-Brexit checks on goods sent from Britain to Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of the Brexit deal, was introduced to prevent imposing a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, thereby keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market. However, the rules created a border in the Irish sea that has caused friction in the area.
The UK Government is currently studying the plans, which would ensure that most food products would not need to be physically checked when arriving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The proposals would also reduce the amount of admin for importers in Northern Ireland. However, the UK’s Brexit minister David Frost has said the protocol should be scrapped entirely.
Businesses in Northern Ireland were positive about the EU’s proposals. “There is much to recommend in the EU proposals and it is clear that they are listening to the concerns of the local business community,” said Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts. “We will take time to examine them and consult with our members before we give a considered final view.”
Glyn was optimistic about a deal being achieved. “A deal is possible if the political will is there, and I would be hopeful that progress toward that can now be made.”
He told The Guardian that small independent businesses had been hit by tough paperwork requirements, which the EU’s plans would simplify. “I’ve had independent retailers, delis, who have been unable to get access to their products,” Glyn said. “At the end of the day this is about hard-working families not having to pay more for their food and having the full range available in their local shops and online,” he said.