M&S temporarily withdraws hundreds of items from sale in Northern Ireland due to Irish Sea border red tape

Marks and Spencer is temporarily withdrawing hundreds of items from sale in Northern Ireland as a result of the new customs border with Great Britain, the News Letter can reveal.
M&S stressed that it was committed to Northern Ireland and that the decision was only being taken on a temporary basisM&S stressed that it was committed to Northern Ireland and that the decision was only being taken on a temporary basis
M&S stressed that it was committed to Northern Ireland and that the decision was only being taken on a temporary basis

The retailer – which unlike the other major British supermarkets served Northern Ireland for decades during the worst of the Troubles – emphasised that the decision was temporary and that it would be restoring the products to its 21 stores in the province.

The development is the latest to show how even some of the UK’s biggest retailers are struggling to navigate the complexity of the new Irish Sea border – despite Secretary of State Brandon Lewis continuing to insist that no such border exists.

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Hauliers and other industry figures have said that there have been immediate major problems as a result of the customs and regulatory border created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the UK-EU deal to implement Brexit eight days ago.

The News Letter has obtained an internal M&S list of more than 380 products which the supermarket is no longer sending to Northern Ireland from its GB distribution centres.

The items include multiple breads, Percy Pig sponge rolls, mini pain au chocolat rolls, piri piri whole chickens, tulips, icing sugar, lamb stock cubes, Spanish Rioja red wine, Stella Artois beer, cotton wool, Walter the Sausage Dog Easter eggs and hundreds of other items across most departments in its food section.

The issue does not appear to be with Export Health Certificates – the costly and complicated forms required for products containing anything of animal origin. Supermarkets have received a three-month grace period until April 1 meaning that there is not yet enforcement of that aspect of the new border.

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Rather, the problem is understood to be the complexity of customs declarations for every product crossing the Irish Sea, which has led to M&S deciding that in the short term it is better to keep most of its more than 6,000 food products flowing by reducing the complexity of each load.

Other supermarkets and food companies have seen entire lorry loads unable to make it through the new border this week.

Earlier this week the News Letter revealed that Sainsbury’s has withdrawn hundreds of products from sale in Northern Ireland as a result of the Irish Sea border.

However, while Sainsbury’s says that it hopes the decision is temporary, it appears to be more significant than what M&S has done because Sainsbury’s has signed a contract which will see Spar-branded products replacing many of the items no longer being sent across the Irish Sea until at least April.

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M&S – which set up a new distribution centre to service its stores on both parts of the island of Ireland ahead of Brexit – emphasised that it is firmly committed to remaining in Northern Ireland.

An M&S spokesman said: “We have served customers in Northern Ireland for over 50 years and our priority is to make sure we continue to deliver the same choice and great quality range that our loyal customers have always enjoyed.

“Stores have been receiving regular deliveries this week, however following the UK’s recent departure from the EU, we are transitioning to new processes and we’re working closely with our partners and suppliers to ensure customers can continue to enjoy a great range of products.”


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