'Trading nightmare': NI farmers urge UK to align with EU's SPSs

The Ulster Farmers' Union is calling for free and frictionless trade between NI and GB
The Ulster Farmers' Union is calling for free and frictionless trade between NI and GB

Northern Irish farmers have urged the UK to align with the EU's agri-food sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPSs) to help improve the current 'trading nightmare'.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said aligning with the bloc's SPSs would significantly help minimise trade friction from GB to NI and vice versa.

The union said this would solve the disruption that the NI agri-food industry had been experiencing since the implementation of the NI Protocol on 1 January 2021.

The Protocol is in place to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland remains in the European Union's single market for goods, but this has created a new trade border between NI and GB.

The UFU said a UK-EU SPSs alignment would remove a large percentage of the physical and documentary checks that are currently required.

This would help ensure agri-food products and livestock can continue moving, flowing freely from GB to NI without extra complications and costs.

Examples of disruption facing farmers include livestock identification changes and machinery soil contaminant certification, where additional restrictive measures are now required.

"One particular and very visible effect is the shop window for NI pedigree breeders being blocked, as animals cannot be taken to GB to be shown," UFU president Victor Chestnutt said.

"While animals can still be sold in GB the regulations still limit the farmer. If he or she travels to GB to sell an animal but the animal is not sold, it has a six-month residency to complete in GB before it can be brought back into NI."

He said this unpractical situation could lead to long-term damage of the pedigree sector and the availability and quality of the gene pool of NI livestock.

"Aligning the UK’s agri-food standards with the EU’s would straighten out a lot of the trade issues that we have been burdened with since the beginning of the year," he added.