This week, Best for Britain travelled to Belfast with the U.K. Trade and Business Commission.
For the first year of its life, witnesses have come to Commission meetings to give testimony about how the Brexit deal is affecting them. This year, we are turning that on its head and taking Commissioners to visit witnesses, so they can see for themselves the issues businesses are grappling with.
Led by Peter Norris and Hilary Benn, the delegation landed early on Thursday morning, and went straight into SD Bells on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast to hear how this legendary tea and coffee importer is being affected. Instead of buying cups from England, they now source them from Kerry. Instead of getting labels from the Midlands, it’s now easier to get them from Madrid. Two other small businesses there told us similar: Brexit is dampening NI trade with GB because so many suppliers struggle with the extra red tape and costs of delivering goods to Belfast.
Our first in-person recommendation from Rob Bell of @sd_bells on how trust is central to solving the issues with the Northern Ireland protocol for small businesses #Brexit #UKTBCinNI pic.twitter.com/Gi2CvLT4j4— UK Trade & Business Commission (@UKTradeBusiness) March 3, 2022
After SD Bells we donned high vis jackets and went to a major distribution centre in the Port of Larne. We saw lorries rolling off ferries, depositing pallets in warehouses and heard how divergence between the U.K. and EU on food standards and labelling is causing huge uncertainty and significantly increasing costs. Margins are being eroded, and product choice in NI, is being reduced.
“If you don’t solve these problems for retailers, that’s going to affect every household in Northern Ireland”— UK Trade & Business Commission (@UKTradeBusiness) March 3, 2022
Households in NI had the biggest average drop in additional income from Q3 2020 - Q3 2021 in all UK. But if costs don’t come ⬇️ consumers will feel it. #UKTBCinNI pic.twitter.com/vxXfhaChg4
After Larne, we travelled back to Belfast city centre to meet the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and a host of other businesses from dairy farmers to supermarkets, who all reiterated that same need for clarity and certainty from Brussels and Westminster alike.
An example of how the end of the grace period will impact specific products:— UK Trade & Business Commission (@UKTradeBusiness) March 3, 2022
90% of baby food is organic.
If full checks are enforced there’s no mutual recognition for the organic label.
Meaning less choice, higher costs & parents may have to compromise on quality #UKTBCinNI
The day was eye opening. Seeing really is believing and we can’t wait to get out across other parts of the U.K. to bear witness.
As always, our sessions will be followed up with rapid recommendations to Government. Businesses and consumers are suffering now, and the PM needs to level up U.K. trade for the 21st century. At the moment, with increased red tape and post Brexit barriers to trade, we are going backwards, not forwards.
We documented the trip on our Instagram and the Commission’s Twitter account - make sure you’re following us there for the latest updates about our next trip.
Watch in full: the Commission’s evidence session from Belfast
Evidence session: the Protocol on Northern Ireland in practice https://t.co/5xZTxHnFjg— UK Trade & Business Commission (@UKTradeBusiness) March 3, 2022