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Food firms fear lack of Northern Ireland voice in Brexit talks

By John Mulgrew

Food firms say they are “extremely concerned” that Northern Ireland is still not being represented in Brexit talks due to the current lack of devolution here.

Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), welcomed a Downing Street paper which called for a ‘light touch’ arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which would avoid any physical customs border.

But, it also proposes employing “technology-based solutions to make it easier to comply with customs procedures”.

“The deeply integrated nature of the agri-food sector between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain means that a practical solution to the border issue is in the best interests of all parties and should be prioritised as such,” Mr Bell said.

“We note with interest that a position paper focusing specifically on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to be compiled and look forward to its earliest publication.

“Given the potential significance of this paper for trade, we remain extremely concerned that the region most affected by these negotiations is not adequately represented at the negotiating table.

“We once again call on all political parties to work together to restore the local Executive and provide people and business in Northern Ireland with the political representation they deserve at this critical time.”

He said a recently announced deal, which would allow Northern Ireland pork products to be exported to China, “will require continued access to EU labour, upon which our agri-food sector has become significantly reliant.”

Belfast Telegraph