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Northern Ireland Dairy Council chief insists protocol is working


Dr Mike Johnston.

Dr Mike Johnston.

Dr Mike Johnston.

The head of Northern Ireland’s Dairy Council has insisted that the protocol is working for his sector.

Dr Mike Johnston made the comments on RTE Radio as the Taoiseach Micheal Martin accused the British Government of acting in bad faith over the protocol.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Mr Martin said any attempts to change the deal unilaterally would be “deeply damaging” and “mark a historic low point.”

Asked how the arrangements were working on the ground, Dr Johnston said: “Quite simply the protocol is working.”

"We have made this point numerous times and very clearly to both the UK government and the EU,” he said.

"It is allowing our trade flows to continue. Is it perfect? No. Are there things that could be improved? Yes.

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"But it is working and our clear message has been ‘do not do anything that will any way interfere with the current working’.

"Let’s bank what we’ve got and see if we can improve it, but it is working for us.”

He added that after listening to the “rhetoric” from both the UK and EU, it was clear that both sides wanted to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

"Well, you’re not going to get any better example than the island or Ireland Dairy value chain”.

Explaining the journey that milk produced in Northern Ireland makes, he said around a third (800 million litres) goes to processing plants in the Irish Republic.

This includes being processed into final or intermediate products that could be returned to Northern Ireland for final processing.

"It’s the availability of the protocol that allows that flow of the raw milk to continue.”

He said the reality was that Northern Ireland simply lacked the processing capability to meet that level of demand.

"If we were not able to continue those trade flows we would be in serious trouble, you can imagine the environmental and the animal health implications.”

Having “unfettered access" to both the EU and UK markets was a major advantage, he said.

In the event of the EU making changes to food standards, dairy producers in Northern Ireland would need to adhere to them as well as for the differing standards of the UK.

Dr Johnston said any milk produced in Northern Ireland currently needs to meet EU standards, which allows it be moved freely across the border.

This could be compromised if, for example, grain was imported to Northern Ireland that didn’t meet EU standards.

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