Call for law change to help food industry in case of no-deal Brexit
Northern Ireland food industry leaders have joined calls for aspects of competition law to be suspended so that firms can work together in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
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Doing so is illegal, as the law stands, and companies engaging in such practices risk being fined by the Competition and Markets Authority.
A government report highlighted food as "the most visible ways in which the UK would be affected" by a no-deal Brexit.
The industry also claims that because of stockpiling for Christmas, leaving the EU in the autumn could pose more difficulties than the original Brexit date last March.
Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said: "In the event of a no-deal Brexit and the disruption that will come with it, the food supply chain will have to work together. For that to happen, there may have to be a suspension of existing rules on competition.
"NIFDA is heavily engaged with the Government in discussions on seeking to minimise disruption, but still we do not have clarity less than three months before a potential crash-out.
"The impact of a no-deal Brexit on food and drink - Northern Ireland's largest industrial sector - will potentially be very severe. Given our reliance on EU exports, and the fact that the agri-food sector on the island of Ireland is highly integrated, leaving the EU without a deal would leave us uniquely exposed."
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Mr Bell added the lack of an Executive was "a major problem".
"The Northern Ireland food industry and the economy as a whole is potentially facing unprecedented difficulty, yet we remain without ministers able to take important decisions and fight our corner," he said.
Angus Wilson, chief executive of potato company Wilsons Country, said the prospect of a no-deal was "extremely difficult and worrying".
He warned it would be "especially damaging to businesses like ours operating mainly across the island of Ireland".