Local meat producers should not be cited by politicians to justify the ban on chilled products from Great Britain

News Letter editorial of Thursday June 10 2021:

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 8:13 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 8:57 am
News Letter editorial

Amid the worrying coming ban to chilled meat imports, it is helpful to be reminded of local meats.

On page three today we report on how it is business as usual for McCartney’s butchers in Moira, which sources its meats locally.

It is reassuring to hear of outstanding local producers of food and drink, be it whiskey, beef, dairy products or whatever. Northern Ireland outlets will help with supplies if external trade gets difficult.

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We wish such businesses well.

There is, however, a risk that the existence of local companies is exploited politically to downplay the implications of the Boris Johnson Irish Sea border betrayal.

Last December, Michael Gove was asked by MPs about the way that voices in Ireland were promoting the looming ban on import of chilled meats to Northern Ireland from Great Britain as an opportunity for the Republic to supply NI instead.

Shockingly, Mr Gove did not deny this possible diversion in traditional trade flows, away from internal UK ones and towards cross-border all-Ireland ones. He said that Northern Ireland could source from within NI, adding: “When it comes to pork products there is nothing better than an Ulster fry.”

Other politicians have made this point about NI sourcing from NI.

It sounds good but if reduced to its logical conclusion it would mean that in all things a diminution in trade flows would be a good thing, because we could source everything locally. Not just meat, but all cereal, all cars, alcohol, computers, beds, etc would be made and sourced in Northern Ireland.

Likewise Kent would source its own things from Kent, and other regions would supply themselves too.

Such a global model would be a reversion to medieval manufacturing and trading, causing a collapse in consumer choice.

It hardly needs to be said but we should facilitate major trade in and out of Northern Ireland so that good stuff comes in and good stuff goes out.

It is a separate matter whether or not nations should join big trading blocs such as the EU.

Whatever the answer to that separate question, NI’s key single market is the UK one and the NI Protocol greatly disrupts that.

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Alistair Bushe