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Brexit deal ‘resolves key hospitality issues’

Food industry leaders have welcomed a new Brexit agreement which will ease the flow of food and drink from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland.

Under the Windsor Framework, products including food travelling from Britain destined for Northern Ireland will pass through a new ‘green lane’, meaning they will require minimal paperwork and avoid routine physical checks, while goods destined for the EU will be destined for a separate ‘red lane’ and be subject to the usual checks.

The deal also removes bans on certain products like chilled sausages entering Northern Ireland from Britain.

However, businesses will have to introduce new ‘not for EU’ labels on certain food products sold in Northern Ireland, starting with high risk products like meat and dairy from October this year.

In a boost for the hospitality sector, EU VAT rules will no longer apply for alcoholic drinks for immediate consumption which will now be subject to UK VAT and excise rules.

The deal was struck this week by the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

Although details of how the new arrangements will work in practice are still to be ironed out business leaders welcomed the agreement. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The initial details of the new deal for trading in Northern Ireland are encouraging and appear to address the key concerns of hospitality businesses.”

She added that the breakthroughs on easing trade flows, VAT, excise duty and state aid “would seem to resolve many of the major sticking points”, raised by the trade body.

The Food and Drink Federation, meanwhile, said it welcomed news of the agreement as it released figures showing a 22.5% increase in the value of UK food and drink exports in 2022 compared with 2021. The value of EU exports rose 21.5% during the same period but are still 0.7% behind the value recorded in 2019 despite food price inflation running in double-digits.