NI protocol leaves food supply at risk of disease warns expert
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The co-founder of a pioneering start-up working on trade monitoring technology has voiced concerns that the Northern Ireland protocol row could leave the door open for diseases to enter food supplies. Posting to the importance of cross-border checks during the Foot and Mouth outbreak, entrepreneur Mike McGrath is worried Brexit disputes could leave the door open for animal diseases to spread in the future.
Mr McGrath told Express.co.uk: “So we would have been aware of this going back to Foot and Mouth Disease 20 years ago, when Foot and Mouth Disease broke out in the UK first Northern Ireland and the Republic came together to prevent Foot and Mouth and they worked together.
“Since then, infection control on the island, and even with Covid to some extent there was joined-up thinking and those checks and controls haven’t come in yet.
“Because they have been paused because of the current situation, I would be concerned when those controls come in if there is any separation on the island of Ireland there’s gonna be a risk and obviously if you don’t have joined-up thinking and that’s it.
“That’s just because it’s an all-island economy or perhaps the right word being island jurisdiction where you’ve got both countries on one island, and if they have different controls around security in regards to sanitary and health risks and infection controls, that probably the issue that we would just be slightly concerned about.”
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He added: “I know some of the food companies are dealing with are a little bit concerned as well because it does impact products of animal origin and it impacts products with animal feed, dairy products, etc.
“So that again will come to pass and 2023 and hopefully by then, that is a long time away and in the technology world that there might be some technical solutions in place as well.
“That will help ease that through and make sure that it’s not restricting, it isn’t causing products to go to a border or stuck at a port, not being able to move across.”
MPs have voted to give the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill a second reading, the legislation is designed to override parts of the post-Brexit deal to allay concerns over its impact on the UK.
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It comes after the DUP said it will not nominate ministers to allow a new Stormont Executive to be formed until the UK takes actions on its concerns around the protocol.
However, the move by the UK has been branded as illegal and a clear breach of international law.
Ireland’s Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the UK’s bid to unilaterally change the protocol was a “strategic mistake”.
He told BBC Northern Ireland’s The View programme that the EU would “not be threatened” by the UK’s approach to the ongoing stand-off.
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“The British government had given commitments in the past that it would be even-handed in its approach to Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to this government, they’re siding with one of the three blocs of opinion that now exist in Northern Ireland.
“And I think that’s a strategic mistake for people who want to preserve the union – to continue to impose things that a clear majority of people don’t want means more people will turn away from the union.
“It’s a peculiar policy coming from a government that purports to want to defend the union.”
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