The government’s approach to the Irish border issue is “misguided and fails to recognise many of the central concerns about food”, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has said.
The UK has so far focused on “technological solutions” as a way of allowing frictionless border traffic across the Northern Irish border and at other ports of entry into the UK.
However, a recent paper published by CIEH and the Food Research Collaboration at City University claims that such solutions simply do not currently exist and don’t address the need for physical checks.
The criticism follows news that Brussels has again rejected the UK’s proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland, with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying the UK wants to “cherrypick” its terms.
Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH, said: “It is very disappointing to see the government continuing with this misguided approach to the key issue of the Northern Irish border post-Brexit.
“It has been made very clear to British negotiators that by solely pursuing technological solutions, they are ignoring the continuing need for physical inspection of food imported into the UK.
“Such inspections, by competent environmental health professionals, ensures that food is what it claims to be, comes from where it says it does and is safe.
“The apparent inability to distinguish between customs checks and food safety measures is deeply concerning, and we strongly urge the government to talk to food safety professionals to ensure that our food supply and safety systems are properly prepared for Brexit.”
According to The Guardian, EU negotiators are frustrated that the UK government hasn’t budged much in its border proposals since last August, when they were first rejected by Brussels.
Britain wants to see a new “streamlined customs partnership” with “regulatory equivalence” on both sides of the border, as well as an option for future “divergence”, the newspaper reported, but the EU has rejected this out of hand.
Having ruled out a customs union with the EU, the UK instead set out plans for either a customs partnership or a customs arrangement – both of which options have proven unsatisfactory to EU negotiators.