Consumer Council says 130 retailers have stopped supplying Northern Ireland, citing UK exit from EU

Around 130 retailers have stopped supplying NI while citing the UK exit from the EU as the reason, the Consumer Council has revealed.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 6:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:04 pm

The consumer body says the true figure is likely to be larger; Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has said 200 GB companies had stopped supplying NI due to the NI Protocol.

The figures come as parties sharply debate whether the UK should take unilateral action to suspend some aspects of the NI Protocol.

The Consumer Council said it has “monitored as closely as we can, GB businesses who have ceased to deliver to Northern Ireland citing EU Exit as the reason. We used this data to inform our EU Exit perceptions and impact report last year.

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Retailers supplying food and non-alcoholic drinks make up 22% of those that have stopped supplying to Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council says.

“We have continued to monitor the businesses that we are aware of, and the current confirmed retailers not delivering to NI currently sits between 119-132.”

It added that it is important to note that this is “not an exhaustive list”, nor does it take into consideration online marketplaces “so it is likely that the number is greater”.

However, while its figures suggest the numbers affected may have just over halved since 2021, it is not clear what impact the end of EU grace periods and UK financial support schemes might have on the total tally.

And while the consumer body does not explicitly blame the protocol for the problem, the Secretary of State explicitly did.

The Consumer Council says the following are the percentage of 119-132 retailers not delivering by sector; Garden (25%), food/non-alcoholic drinks (22%), home (16%), alcohol/e-liquids (9%), sport/leisure (8%), technology/entertainment (8%), clothing/footwear (5%), pet/animal supplies (5%) and health/beauty (2%). The NIO has said shortbread, cheese and kitchen equipment have been examples of products affected.

DUP MLA Deborah Erskine said: “This is incredible. Yet, the pro-protocol parties don’t seem to care.”

“Since it came into operation in January 2021, the Protocol has damaged both the Northern Ireland economy and our democratic arrangements. It has created a border down the Irish Sea resulting in lengthy and time-consuming customs checks, increased bureaucracy, reduced availability of goods available for Northern Irish consumers, supply chain disruption, and confusion for businesses surrounding taxes imposed on items deemed to be ‘at risk’ of entering the European Union through Northern Ireland.”

TUV South Antrim spokesperson Mel Lucas said the figures “graphically illustrate” the impact of the Protocol on NI consumers. While the primary concern of any unionist on the Protocol will always be constitutional, he said, “it is shocking that...such a large number of businesses based in our own country have simply ceased to provide goods to Northern Ireland.”

In March, Brandon Lewis told MPs on the NI Affairs committee that the NI Protocol was to blame for the issue.

“We have got a situation where over 200 businesses in GB are not supplying Northern Ireland,” he said. “Citizens in Northern Ireland are not able to access products the way they want to. The committee would have seen evidence of people even getting Christmas cards with charges, with the Queen’s Jubilees trees, with the Jewish community and not just with kosher food but also with their (religious) artefacts.”

Sinn Fein, the SDLP, UUP and Alliance were invited to comment.