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Cross-Border trade fears as North issues export certificate warning

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Bloomberg

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Bloomberg

Bloomberg via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Bloomberg

Cross-Border trade could be brought to a standstill by red-tape problems post-Brexit, with Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture saying it will not have the capacity to provide the necessary paperwork in a 'no-deal' scenario.

DAERA says the potential demand for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) could jump from 18,000 to 1.9 million - which it will not be able to meet. An EHC is an official document signed by a vet or qualified person to verify a food or animal export meets the health and safety requirements of the importing country - in this case, the EU.

The North's chief veterinary officer Dr Robert Huey said: "Anyone who wishes to move live animals or agri-food to the EU - including the Republic of Ireland - will need an EHC.

"That's anything from dogs, horses, all food containing milk, cheese, eggs… when they're talking about regulatory controls in the single market, this is what they mean.

"A whole new group of certificates will be needed for retail distribution, for things like sandwiches, pizzas… anything that contains milk product will need a certificate. That's completely new work.

"Very small businesses which are registered and approved because they're currently in the EU and single market and in the region of the Border can sell products to the south without controls.

"For instance, local butchers selling sausage rolls into the local filling station, they won't be able do that anymore in a no-deal scenario, until they get approved, so they need to speak to us."

Given the broad range of third-country requirements they will need to meet if they wish to continue to trade with the EU, some Northern businesses will be forced to cease exporting.

Dr Huey accepted that trading patterns and practices will adjust and the need for all 1.9m certificates is unlikely to materialise but said: "Still, demand may exceed capacity.

"We need businesses to think about this and the consequences and how they're going to reorganise their businesses to do this.

Sick

"My concern is people are so sick of Brexit, they might stick their heads in the sand… if there's no deal and they haven't planned ahead, and find they can't export… we can't leave it any longer, now is the time."

Dairy Industry Ireland said it is very concerned to the continuation of agri-trade on the island of Ireland.

"This warning is even starker for Irish industry and farmers when you consider how short Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson's recent proposal for an alternative for the backstop has fallen from expectations," a spokesperson said.

Dairy Industry Ireland is calling on the British government to confirm that legally-binding enforcement of current food standard law would apply to the island of Ireland in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

"This would solve the issues on certification that the Northern Irish chief veterinary officer has starkly underlined," the spokesperson said.

"While there would remain some other major stumbling blocks for island of Ireland trade like customs and origin, it would be a logical and welcome start."

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