Chaired by Lord Teverson, the committee will review the Northern Ireland Protocol and what it will mean for trade between Great Britain and the island of Ireland once the UK leaves the EU.
The protocol would see some EU rules applied to Northern Ireland after the transition, in a bid to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and protect the Good Friday agreement. It would include rules covering Customs and other measures affecting the movement of goods.
Key concerns from the industry
The inquiry will address a number of concerns raised by members of the food and drink industry surrounding the movement of goods in Ireland after the UK leaves the EU at the end of this year.
This includes – but is not limited to – the level of additional checks and other controls on food and ingredients moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, possible barriers for Northern Ireland agrifood products going into Great Britain and the impact of COVID-19 on preparations for the end of the transition period.
Members of the agrifood industry and transport companies will have until the end of this month (June) to voice their concerns to the EU Environment Sub-Committee, with the findings to be presented to the Government before Parliament’s summer recess in July.
The inquiry into the Northern Ireland Protocol followed fresh calls from the meat industry for the Government to address major issues around the supply chain before Brexit.
The British Meat Processors Association said the Government needed to address these issues – such as guidance on groupage and proof of origin – to avoid serious disruption, which could completely halt the trade of certain goods to the EU and other third countries.
Votes against upholding standards
Concerns were also raised last month over the Government’s decision to vote against an amendment to the UK’s Agriculture Bill, which would have guaranteed high standards for food and drink entering the country post-Brexit.
Law firm DWF warned the move could provide a competitive advantage to any produce that was able to avoid the higher and more costly standards currently required by UK law.
Meanwhile, Brexit trade tariffs will be applied to agricultural imports from 1 January 2021 under Government proposals, potentially protecting domestic producers against cheaper import prices and lower food standards.
The UK Global Tariff, due to be introduced from the beginning of next year, would apply tariffs to all agricultural imports from nations with which it has not clinched trade agreements. However, it would also apply zero tariffs to many imported goods, potentially making them cheaper for consumers.