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CILT webinar about the Brexit Transition - Focus on the Northern Ireland Protocol: Wednesday 10 March 2021

Participants were Seamus Leheny of Logistics UK, Nick McCullough of DFDS and Christopher Sturman, CILT forum chair. In his introduction Kevin Richardson recalled it having been said that if you had a solution to conflict in NI, then you didn't know the problem: and now the challenges of reconciling the Good Friday Agreement with the NI Protocol suggested the return of such ignorance

Last-minute emergence of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement seemed to have led people to suppose that the challenges had disappeared. However experience since 1 January in moving goods from GB to NI has found the players to be unaware, unprepared and unwilling, with prenotification declarations not completed, Sanitary and PhytoSanitary (SPS) groupage not sealed, certificates not obtained for prohibited and restricted goods like chilled meats, wooden packaging not compliant with ISPN15 and the grace period set to expire 31 March but only unilaterally extended by UK. Groupage operations have to provide trailer and transit details, there is an at-risk policy to ensure that EU duties are paid only on goods at risk of going into the Republic, and the Express Parcel Waiver has been extended to 1 October.

The logistics industry is seeking an end-to-end digital solution for the SPS digital assistance scheme. An SOS certification hub is being sought similar to that now in place for Scottish seafood, also an audited movement scheme from GB to NI and bulking of parcels declarations. HMRC needs to be able to differentiate at ports what is from NI or from the Republic. Recognition of NI qualifying goods must provide that NI cheese using milk from the Republic is classed as a NI good.

A vote will be held in 4 years at the Stormont Assembly on the future of the NI Protocol. If vote is no, there will be a need for a new system in a further two years.

DFDS's new link to avoid the land bridge using chartered vessels between Rosslare and Dunkirk has been full, so a fourth ship is being introduced. The starting-point of everyone's expectations had been that goods should continue to be available on the same terms in Belfast as in other British cities. Now however we are faced with a complicated roadmap. Owing to impacts of stockbuilding and CoVid lockdown, volumes for January were down 30%, while owing to additional transport costs and overheads profitability was down 12%.

There was a lack of preparation by customers who had not registered on new systems, late notification of these had come from Government, and these new systems were being operated by new people, resulting in significant delays which had led to empty shelves. With added layers of administration, the supply chain to NI has had a day added, more fleet are needed but the Trader Support Service is not the finished article, and the future must lie in automation/robotics. Prices will go up in NI.

Evolution is ongoing: in April 2021 a system of prenotification will be in place, followed in July by a risk-based level of physical checks, while continuing issues of pallet compliance and insufficient veterinary resources will have to be addressed. The Compliance Protocol for SPS provides for regulatory alignment with EU: GB is a third country, and therefore NI is required to supply SPS checks, with high-risk foods not of animal origin, plastic kitchenware and seeds included alongside animal, fish and plant products.

Checks will be documentary, identity/ labelling and physical, with seal checks at the GB port of exit becoming the main method of ensuring compliance. It is hoped that there will be a reduced rate of inspection after three months, with detailed procedures for retail goods, chilled meat products and all other commodities. A tickbox provision will be required for Standard Goods moving between NI and GB.

Notes by John Yellowlees

 

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