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Marks & Spencer chair says EU NI Protocol proposal would increase red tape

By Huw Hughes

18 Nov 2021

Business

Image: Marks and Spencer

The chair of Marks & Spencer has warned that the EU’s Northern Ireland Protocol proposal could create more problems than it resolves.

Archie Norman said the changes “could result in worsening friction and cost and a high level of ambiguity and scope for dispute”.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, signed as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, means goods sent from Great Britain need to be checked as they arrive in Northern Ireland.

This has caused disruption since being implemented, leading the EU in October to propose new measures that it says would reduce the amount of paperwork and checks needed on goods being imported.

But products would have to be clearly labelled as being only for sale in the UK.

In a letter to UK Brexit minister Lord David Frost, seen by the Financial Times, Norman said such labelling would add 9 million pounds in extra annual costs for the retailer.

He also said checks would result in fresh goods taking 45 hours longer to get to stores than when the UK was an EU member, and as a result, the retailer might have to stop sending some product lines to Northern Ireland.

“Detailed examination suggests to us that the proposals could end up being more costly to implement than full EU customs controls,” Norman said.

He instead called for a “risk-based regime” with limited checks on goods that would make extensive use of digital technology.