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Lack of meaningful Government engagement on Protocol with Northern Ireland food and farming business - Lords

Higher prices and threats to food and farming businesses' viability are “significant risks” for Northern Ireland without the right preparation and approach to the post-Brexit Protocol, Peers have warned.

The Government must urgently step up engagement with agri-food businesses and start detailed discussions on proposals to implement the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, according to the House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee.

Last month the committee heard from representatives of Northern Ireland's agri-food sector including farmers, grain merchants, food processors, the fishing industry and retailers.

Witnesses had “mixed views” on the Government's contact with them on Brexit and said that on Protocol implementation “meaningful engagement hasn't really started yet” and “needed to increase significantly”.

Protocol arrangements must not undermine the reputation of products from Northern Ireland and their recognition as British in the UK's wider internal market, they added.

Now the committee has set out its key findings and concerns in a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Lord Teverson, Chair of the sub-committee, said:

“We are concerned that there has been a lack of meaningful Government engagement on the implementation of the Protocol in recent months.

“Rushed, last-minute business engagement will not be enough to create effective solutions, given the urgency, scale and complexity of the task.

“The Protocol is an opportunity for Northern Ireland to have a unique position in trade. A UK-EU free trade agreement is critical to making this possible.”

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