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Brexit responsible for shortages in Northern Ireland: Irish FM

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Freight from Scotland arriving at the Port of Larne, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland. (AFP photo)

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney says Brexit has caused food supply problems in Northern Ireland, warning of further trade disruption.

Coveney said on Wednesday that food supply problems in Northern Ireland have arisen due to Brexit as there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland.

“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” he told British television network ITV.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (File photo)

While the UK left the European Union (EU), Northern Ireland has, nevertheless, remained in the Single Market for goods and is continuing to apply EU customs rules. Altogether these arrangements constitute the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.

"What we have in place in Ireland is a protocol which effectively defacto creates an extension of the EU Single Market for goods into Northern Ireland, even though it is part of the UK. And that requires a certain amount of checks on goods coming into NI and that will cause a lot of disruptions.”

He went on to say that there are consequences attached to the “the kind of Brexit” the British government had wanted.

"Customs checks and systems are all part of trade across the Irish Sea. It is there and it is very real.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has also acknowledged that Brexit contributed to shortages on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.

Yet, Truss also said that the coronavirus pandemic has played a role in the shortage of goods too.

“Well I think it’s down to both of those issues,” she told ITV. “We were always clear that we are leaving the single market, we are leaving the customs union, there would be processes to be undertaken.”

Coveney also said the divorce deal agreed with the bloc by then-prime minister Theresa May would have caused fewer such problems.

“There was an opportunity for a very different kind of Brexit that would have avoided much of the trade disruption that we’re now experiencing and people chose not to take that opportunity,” he said.

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