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Enforcement of EU trade rules threatens M&S operations, President warns

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The “unnecessary” application of EU rules on trade in the Irish Sea threatens Marks and Spencer’s business operations on the island of Ireland, its president has warned.

Archie Norman raised concerns about the impact of post-Brexit trade deals in a letter to Brexit Minister Lord Frost.

He said the problem was less with the new trade rules and more with their rigorous enforcement which is causing problems for businesses.

“The overall goals of the customs union are not the problem. It is the unnecessary and Byzantine way in which the regime is applied that is so destructive to business, ”he wrote.

Mr Norman signaled M&S support for some form of veterinary agreement on food safety standards between the EU and the UK as a way to remove many of the new controls and processes on seafood trade. Ireland.

He said M&S was no longer able to ship many products to the Republic of Ireland from Britain due to the Brexit deals, and warned of the prospect of a supply disruption on a similar scale for goods destined for Northern Ireland after the expiration of the grace periods. which currently limit the volume of paperwork on exchanges between GB and NI.

The chairman of the company said M&S is already planning to cut a number of Christmas products for sale in Northern Ireland.

“The point about the current arrangements is that they are totally unsuitable and were never designed for a modern fresh food supply chain between closely related trading partners,” he wrote.

“They are useless in terms of food safety and customer protection.

“Indeed, M & S’s food standards are among the highest in the world and we are ready to fully comply with EU requirements if necessary. “

Mr Norman listed what he described as a “Kafkaesque bureaucracy” the company faced, including trucks unable to enter the island of Ireland due to incorrect pen ink on documents and production delays due to a dispute over the dairy content of chocolate chip cookies.

Regarding potential solutions, Mr Norman added: “By far the easiest solution would be to agree on a time-limited veterinary / food standards agreement.

“I understand why the government is not favorably disposed towards this solution, but it is by far the best way to ensure a smooth flow of trade.”

Mr Norman said M&S commitment to Northern Ireland remains strong, noting that the company employs 4,000 people in the region.

“However, the problems we face as a direct consequence of the current customs arrangements and compliance regime in the Republic and, in all likelihood, in the North are very threatening to our business,” he added.


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