Marks & Spencer has urged the UK authorities not to see abstracted labelling for goods sold successful Northern Ireland during talks with the EU astir improving post-Brexit commercialized arrangements, arguing that it would beryllium excessively costly for retailers and customers.
The retailer’s chair, Archie Norman, has written to the overseas secretary, James Cleverly, arguing the request would not beryllium a utile alteration to the Northern Ireland protocol and would make “overbearing and prohibitive costs” for exporters.
The involution comes arsenic talks are continuing betwixt the UK and the EU implicit imaginable changes to the arguable post-Brexit protocol to marque it run better, aft unionist choler implicit its checks connected commercialized betwixt Great Britain and Northern Ireland led to violence and the suspension of the Stormont assembly.
Both sides person antecedently suggested that further labelling could assistance to trim the request for checks connected goods and import controls.
M&S, which has operated successful Northern Ireland for much than 50 years, is cautioning that further labelling would beryllium costly, and would truthful trim availability and prime for customers successful Northern Ireland and pb to higher prices astatine a clip of precocious nutrient inflation.
Norman wrote successful the letter: “There are 2 variants to the labelling proposals, either Northern Ireland circumstantial labels oregon UK wide labels. Both incur the aforesaid occupation for those retailers oregon manufacturers operating successful some Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
The nutrient and homeware retailer said it sends betwixt 7% and 9% of its income to Northern Ireland. It warned that circumstantial labelling of products to beryllium sold determination would necessitate “specific accumulation runs and segregated stock”, adding this would adhd other outgo for “packaging changes connected each accumulation run”, which would beryllium peculiarly challenging for tiny suppliers.
In addition, the retailer wrote that UK-only labelling of each products taxable to sanitary and phytosanitary checks – for products of carnal oregon works origin, including nutrient and food – would beryllium “an adjacent worse result for M&S”.
This would necessitate goods being exported to the Republic of Ireland oregon elsewhere to person “separate accumulation runs, packaging and segregated stock,” Norman said, adding this would “completely undermine the ‘all Ireland supply’ we person acceptable up to assistance get astir the existent issues”.
It is understood that the UK has not ruled retired the imaginable usage of labelling of products.
Norman’s letter, archetypal reported by the BBC, alternatively suggested that the EU and UK see “digital tracing” of goods, which helium described arsenic “a acold better, much modern and little outgo solution”.
He added that this would region the needs for carnal checks and labelling of products intended for Northern Ireland, arsenic it provides a wide presumption connected wherever goods are sent, and described this tracing arsenic “very communal successful the nutrient industry”.
Talks aimed astatine uncovering a solution to the Northern Ireland protocol reopened successful September, and successful a archetypal motion of progress, agreement was reached successful aboriginal January betwixt the UK and the EU implicit entree to a caller British database providing real-time accusation connected goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Norman, a erstwhile Conservative MP, has previously backed authorities plans to override parts of the protocol, criticising “pointless” post-Brexit rules for sending nutrient to the EU, fixed British nutrient standards were successful enactment with oregon higher than those made by Brussels.
He said past twelvemonth that immoderate nutrient exported to the Republic of Ireland required 700 pages of customs documents, parts of which were written successful Latin.
A labelling authorities would “raise prices and trim prime for consumers, further disadvantage UK farmers and suppliers and interaction UK retailers competitiveness successful different planetary markets,” Norman said.
He called it “baffling” successful a integer property that “the authorities and EU person rewound 4 decades to sermon an costly ‘solution’ involving stickers and labelling”.
The Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.