The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has highlighted the need for further clarity on future trading across the Irish border, as the UK and the EU agree terms on a Brexit transition period.
Under the deal, the transitional period will run from 29 March 2019 to December 2020. The UK will be able to negotiate and sign trade deals during the time frame.
However, the agreement includes an emergency “back stop” plan of keeping Northern Ireland under EU law to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, observed: “Any hard Irish border would be very bad news for retailers and the consumers they serve. Retailers and consumers need the free flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to continue even after the transition expires to prevent delays on the movement of goods across the border, which would impact on product availability for shoppers. We need to see this issue addressed properly in the next stage of negotiations.”
On the other hand, Dickinson viewed the agreement as a step in the right direction, adding: ”This transition agreement allows retailers to continue to provide consumers with a wide choice of products at competitive prices because it secures tariff-free trade between the EU and the UK. It is the same result the retail industry needs for the final deal when the transition period ends.”
Leaders are expected to endorse the plans when they meet in Brussels at the EU summit later this week.
However, the agreement will not be legally binding until the final withdrawal treaty is signed next year.