British food businesses may be unable to continue selling to the EU and Northern Ireland after Brexit after Boris Johnson’s government missed a key deadline to advise on what rules need to be followed.
Business Insider reports that the time for the government to advise on labelling rules to follow from the end of the year has now passed, meaning companies will not be ready for January 1.
Brexit could force British exporters to use different food labels for EU countries – including Northern Ireland – compared to products in the UK.
Such a proposal would contradict Johnson’s claims there will be ‘unfettered’ trade with those living across the Irish sea.
It has prompted warnings that there could be food shortages, and could lead to major retailers pulling out of the country.
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The Food and Drink Federation are now calling for any deal with the EU to include at least 12 months adjustment period to allow for businesses that have been unable to prepare for Brexit to continue trading.
‘With the transition period nearing its end, UK-EU negotiations still ongoing, and updates to official guidance still awaited, the food industry has already practically run out of time to process the necessary label changes ahead of the January 2021 deadline,’ Alex Turtle, the Food and Drink Federation’s labelling and enforcement manager, told the news website.
He added: ‘The UK’s exit from the EU requires food labels to be adapted as never before due to the unique situation of the country’s status change. These label changes are complex, and clarity from the government is urgently required in order for industry to be able to create compliant food labels post-exit.’
Aodhan Connolly, the director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: ‘Labelling isn’t something that you can fudge. It has to be exact if you want goods to be able to go to market.’
Labour raised concerns about the lack of clarity for businesses trading with Northern Ireland, which is likely to still follow EU rules after Brexit.
Karin Smyth – the shadow minister for Northern Ireland – said: ‘Leaving them in the dark until the last minute is irresponsible and will force businesses and consumers to pay the price for the lack of preparation from ministers.’