NI Protocol: M&S warns in opposition to separate labelling for NI items

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Marks And SpencerPA

Marks & Spencer has warned that separate labelling for items being offered in Northern Ireland wouldn’t be a viable change to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol is the post-Brexit deal which retains Northern Ireland contained in the EU single marketplace for items.

The UK and EU are negotiating methods to enhance its operations.

Both have beforehand instructed labelling may have a job in lowering checks and controls on items.

M&S chairman Archie Norman has written to the overseas secretary to warn that labelling would imply “overbearing and prohibitive costs” for retailers.

In July 2021 the UK authorities proposed that “appropriate labelling requirements so that goods could only be sold in the UK” must be a part of a radical plan to scale back controls on Great Britain items, significantly meals merchandise, getting into Northern Ireland.

That was echoed by the EU in October 2021 which mentioned that one situation for lowering checks and paperwork was for items to be labelled “at the level of the individual end-consumer packaging, with words such as ‘products for sale only in the United Kingdom'”.

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However M&S mentioned that might create difficulties for companies which promote outdoors the UK, significantly into the Republic of Ireland.

In the letter it mentioned merchandise for export would wish separate manufacturing runs, packaging and segregated inventory.

It added that such a requirement would “completely undermine the all-Ireland supply we have set up to help get around the current issues”.

The letter mentioned Northern Ireland-specific labelling would create related issues, “requiring specific production runs and segregated stock for about 7-9% of our volume, incurring cost of packaging changes on every production run”.

‘Baffling’

Mr Norman mentioned any answer wanted to be totally digital, including that “retailers already operate in real time digital information – day or night, at the click of a button, we can locate our products, be that in a depot, in transit or in a store”.

“In a digital era – when one tap of a mobile can check-in a customer at store and locate their order in under 60 seconds, it’s baffling that the government and the EU have rewound four decades to discuss an expensive ‘solution’ involving stickers & labelling,” he mentioned.

It is known the UK has not dominated out a job for labelling, seeing it as a typical observe for all meals retailers.

“The protocol is causing real problems in Northern Ireland. These include trade disruption and diversion, significant costs and bureaucracy for traders,” a authorities spokesperson mentioned.

“It’s our preference to resolve these problems through talks, and the government is engaging in constructive dialogue with the EU to find solutions.”

Mr Norman, a former Conservative MP, has been a vocal critic of the impacts of the protocol on the M&S enterprise.

However the corporate has continued to increase in Northern Ireland, opening new meals shops.

It additionally restored its Christmas meals ordering service in Northern Ireland in 2022 having suspended it in 2021.

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