Northern Ireland Protocol will require lorries to have ‘700 pages of documents partly written in Latin’ to ship goods to NI, says Marks & Spencer chief
Marks & Spencer chairman and former Tory MP Archie Norman said the Northern Ireland protocol is “very, very onerous” and costs the business “about £30 million”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said it was “very, very tough” to meet current requirements.
“At the moment, wagons arriving in the Republic of Ireland have to carry 700 pages of documentation. It takes about eight hours to prepare the documentation. Some of the descriptors, particularly of animal products, have to be in Latin. It has to be in a certain typeface. We employ 13 vets in Motherwell to prepare it all…”
Mr Norman, who also said the protocol costs “30% more driver time”, claimed the EU is “looking for us to impose comparable controls for Northern Ireland” and warned this would stop the movement of goods altogether in some instances.
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“The EU are looking for us to impose comparable controls for Northern Ireland and were that to happen, it would mean that quite a lot of product from the UK simply wouldn’t get to Northern Ireland and what does go there would be very very costly,” he said.
He said the EU proposals over the Northern Ireland Protocol are “highly bureaucratic and pretty useless”.
The former Tory MP told the Today programme the bloc was suggesting the same background checks, with the same vets required for the Republic of Ireland, would be needed to send goods from other parts of the UK to Northern Ireland.
“Incidentally that means that every piece of butter in a sandwich has to have an EU vet certificate, so it’s highly bureaucratic and pretty pointless,” he said.
Mr Norman said the purpose of customs rules was to protect consumers from “unsafe food arriving from some far-flung country” but that UK food standards are “equivalent or higher” than the EU’s.
And he defended the UK Government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “triumph of common sense over rules-based mentality”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, he accused the EU Commission of “coming up with a convoluted set of rules” for Northern Ireland that hinder the movement of goods.
“Our food standards are probably the highest in the world, therefore we should recognise that and let the product flow,” he said.
“What the British Government is proposing at the moment seems to me a triumph of common sense over rules-based mentality and will make sure at a time of inflation that the Northern Irish people can get the fresh food that they’re used to and entitled to.”
Asked about inflation, he acknowledged businesses would “reluctantly” have to let some food price inflation “run through the system” but denied the situation was “apocalyptic”.