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Exporters to UK urged to prepare for new customs rules

Exporters to the UK are being urged to prepare for new customs regulations coming into effect on Wednesday so the movement of their goods to market is not affected.

Since Brexit, authorities in Britain have been preparing the new import rules but now, four years on from leaving the EU, the rules are finally ready to be implemented.

Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith is the owner of St Tola Goat Cheese, which is manufactured in Inagh, Co Clare.

She employs nine people and exports her premium product to several UK wholesalers and for weeks has been preparing for the new regulations.

Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith said the new regulations add ‘layers of bureaucracy’

“It has taken a lot of time and consideration, it has involved a lot of communication with the Department of Agriculture and the veterinary inspectors, but we’re getting through it,” Ms Ní Ghairbhith said.

“It just adds another layer of bureaucracy which costs time and therefore money and make export to the UK more expensive,” she added.

All exporters sending goods across the Irish Sea will be required to comply with UK customs requirements, making declarations in advance of dispatch on the UK’s customs system.

For those exporting goods derived from animals or plants, there are additional sanitary and phytosanitary rules and checks, demanded by the UK to protect human, animal and plant health.

“We had to register, and we have had one veterinary inspection so far with at least two more here on the farm,” she said.

“Then every time we are shipping on a weekly or fortnightly basis, we will have extra paperwork to do, and it will involve inspection of each shipment from the consolidator who is exporting all the cheese for us,” Ms Ní Ghairbhith added.

Simon McKeever, CEO of the Irish Exporters Association,

The new rules come into effect on Wednesday morning, just after midnight.

Simon McKeever is CEO of the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) and said companies need to be ready even before the rules come into effect.

“At one minute past midnight on the morning of the 31 January, this will be in place, but you need to be ready for this 24 hours in advance,” he said.

Mr McKeever added: “It’s going to be very different in terms of the level of paperwork and declarations that need to be done.

“If for example, part of the paperwork is not completed – called a GMR (Goods Movement Reference) – you won’t be allowed on the ferry so it’s really, really important that people take this seriously,” he said.

The IEA have been hosting online seminars to prepare members for the change, with the UK government and the Irish Government also doing the same.

St Tola goat cheese being manufactured

Tánaiste Micheál Martin today hosted a meeting of the Brexit Stakeholder Forum in the Department of Foreign Affairs to discuss the changes.

After the meeting, Mr Martin urged all exporting businesses to adapt to the new requirements as quickly as possible.

“I am urging all Irish traders to get ready for these significant changes. Irish businesses, particularly those in the agri-food sector should talk to everyone in their supply chain and where needed make the changes to adapt their business processes to the meet the new UK requirements,” he said.

The UK remains Ireland’s most important trading partner with over one third of Irish exports going there. In 2022 Irish food and drink exports to the UK were worth €5.5 billion.

Ms Ní Ghairbhith said they will continue to export St Tola Goat Cheese, but the net effect of all the extra checks and regulations will add costs at each stage.

“That’s the biggest factor in it. It’s going to be costly for ourselves, but also for our [wholesale] customers, so they then will have to pass it on to the consumer who buys our cheese … which obviously will affect sale,” she said.

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