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Micheal Martin urges agri-food firms to prepare for new Brexit export rules

Ireland’s deputy premier has said he is hoping there will be no delays at ports after new Brexit-related controls are introduced this week.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said Government officials have been in touch with exporters and Ireland should be “well prepared”, but urged agri-food businesses in particular to ensure they are ready for the new rules.

From Wednesday, Great Britain will ask for the pre-lodgement of customs declarations and the pre-notification of agri-food exports, which in some cases will also require an Export Health Certificate.

It is unclear how many businesses will be affected or how many have prepared for the requirements, but they are expected to involve all Irish exporters to the UK as well as those using the UK “land bridge”.

Irish authorities have contingency plans on how to manage traffic if trucks arrive at Dublin port and are not prepared.

“We’ve been in touch regularly with exporters to make sure that they’re ready for the introduction of UK import controls, which is a further phase of the Brexit story,” Mr Martin said on Monday, after a specially convened meeting of the Brexit Stakeholder Forum at Iveagh House.

“It’s interesting: Brexit was voted in in 2016 – it is now eight years later and we’re still dealing with the implications of Brexit, and three years after the technical, I suppose, introduction of Brexit itself in terms of the agreements and the trade agreement.

“We anticipate it will have an impact on the agri-food sector in particular, and there will be obligations on the agri-food sector to be well prepared for this latest development in terms of the introduction of these controls.”

Asked if he expected delays, Mr Martin said: “We would hope not because we have put a lot of work into preparation.

“We’ve invested a lot – and were investing at the time of the Brexit trade agreement – in more veterinary capacity, for example, we’ve worked hard through the stakeholders with the various sectors of the economy and of the exporters.

“So we would hope that we can minimise such delays.”

The first change sees the introduction of full customs controls for goods from Ireland on Wednesday.

The next two changes are the pre-notification of agri-food products destined for Great Britain and, in some cases, the need for an Export Health Certificate which confirms that the product meets British health requirements.

Exporters of Irish agri-food products need to check which category their products fall into. If they they are in the medium or high-risk category, they will need to apply for a certificate.

Products in the low-risk category will not need the certificate but will need to be pre-notified.

Goods from Northern Ireland are not affected by the changes and neither are Irish goods processed in Northern Ireland before being sent to Great Britain.

Pre-notification for agri-foods needs to be done between 30 days and 24 hours before travel, and if trucks arrive at ports without an Export Health Certificate they will have to return to base and wait for the production premises to go through the certification process.

Mr Martin said: “I think people do need to have the documentation right prior to export. It will save an awful lot of trouble on the other side.

“We’ve had a lot of time getting ready for this, and people have had a lot of time, so obviously we there will be flexibility to a certain extent, but remember, this is a documentation phase of the import controls.

“So it should be well within the capacity of our exporters to get the documentation right.

“We would say to every business to look at your business model and make sure that it’s fit for purpose in respect of this development.”

The new rules are part of the UK Government’s rollout of post-Brexit checks this year.

By April 30, medium-risk animal products from the EU will undergo documentary, identity and physical checks.

From October 31, safety and security declarations for EU imports will become mandatory, along with a more streamlined dataset for imports.

Goods from Britain have faced similar controls from the EU since it left the bloc’s single market at the start of 2021, but the UK has repeatedly put off checks in the other direction.