Politics

Brexit: Northern Irish complain about empty shelves in supermarkets

There are problems in particular with the delivery of fresh products. A conflict researcher detects increasing tensions.

In Northern Ireland, consumers are already feeling the effects of Brexit in the supermarket a few days after the end of the transition phase. “People here complain about empty shelves in the supermarkets,” said the Northern Irish conflict researcher and Brexit expert Katy Hayward from Queen’s University Belfast of the German press agency. Supply chains are disrupted, especially with fresh products.

Companies are unsure which forms are required for import. “Many realize that they are not prepared,” said Hayward. That is not surprising – it usually takes years to implement such complex changes. Many companies therefore postpone their trips, which is the first thing that becomes noticeable with fresh products.

After Brexit, Northern Ireland, which belongs to the United Kingdom, has special rules that are set out in the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. This avoids a hard EU external border between the EU member Ireland and the British region of Northern Ireland, as it is feared that old conflicts will flare up between the parts of the country. Northern Ireland is thus tied more closely to the EU and continues to follow the rules of the EU internal market. When importing goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, customs and certificate controls have therefore been due since January 1st. However, the corresponding specifications were only published just before the turn of the year.

Mark Simmonds of the British Ports Association has so far not had any chaos on the Irish maritime border to complain about, but he expects it will not stay that way. “Some ports have sent back trucks. But most of the truck drivers have been prepared so far. The concern is that it will not stay that way if the quantities increase,” said Simmonds of the dpa. He also reports that comparatively little freight passed the ports in the first week of January. In this case, the head of the association estimates around five minutes per truck – if the drivers are prepared. “But even a few minutes make a difference.”

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium also confirmed that companies had temporarily suspended deliveries to Northern Ireland. The supermarket chain Tesco said on request that there were delays in imports of some products into Northern Ireland. “But we’re working with our suppliers to get these (products) back on the shelves as quickly as possible and to offer customers alternatives where we can,” said a spokeswoman.

British Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis appeared in the BBC-Interview confident that the goods will “flow again soon like in 2020”. Katy Hayward, on the other hand, says, “I don’t think things will get better anytime soon.” Tensions in the country are increasing noticeably.

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