Stock up supermarkets and requisition sandwiches

Since the end of last week, the chains of the large supermarkets with establishments in Northern Ireland –Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl or Marks & Spencer– have begun to see part of their shelves empty without being able to replace them. Hundreds of products are already in short supply and the social networks of the residents of the province, both in Belfast and other cities, for example Derry, are echoing the situation.

Among the most affected products are fruit, vegetables and fresh refrigerated meat. The reason is that many suppliers experience delays in the entry of goods into the territory when they come from Great Britain. These are the effects of Brexit and a border in the Irish Sea that separates the single European market – which includes Northern Ireland – from that of Great Britain.

Boris Johnson promised that there would be no physical border between the two parts of the state but said nothing about the mountain of paperwork that importers would have to fill out to transport gender within the UK itself. This bureaucratic demand from the European Union derives from the Northern Ireland protocol: the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU in 2019 to avoid a hard border inside the island of Ireland.

Speaking to the British press, Glyn Roberts, head of Retail NI, an industrial group in the province that represents 1,800 independent retailers and wholesalers, has assured that the cause of the problems is “the enormous amount of bureaucracy that Brexit entails” . “I think sooner or later things will normalize but the next few months will be critical. This is not the wonderful promised land of those who campaigned for Brexit, but we have to make the most of a bad situation.”

Other effects of Brexit have also been felt on other borders. In this case in the Netherlands. Also in the last few hours, a video on Twitter has gone viral in which the customs officer is seen to requisition some sweet ham sandwiches from a truck driver arriving from the United Kingdom. The reason? Basically, the same one that makes it necessary to make an import declaration to introduce products of animal or plant origin into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. In this case, the introduction of food from Great Britain to the EU, even for personal use, is prohibited if it is not accompanied by the appropriate declaration. “Welcome to Brexit,” the customs agent tells him, as the trucker just exclaims, “Oh my God!”

Political impact

But the most politically shocking thing for the Johnson government is the situation in Northern Ireland. In this sense, the Road Transporters Association (RHA) had warned Downing Street of the shortage problems, as evidenced by a letter sent to Michael Gove – equivalent to the Minister of the Presidency – which has revealed Reuters agency. The RHA informed him that the sources of supply of raw materials have also been restricted due to the bureaucracy imposed by Brexit and the new situation in Northern Ireland. “The result of the new regulations will cause shortages in the supermarket shelves and factories will run out of raw materials,” Richard Burnett, executive director of the RHA, told the minister.

Is it a true emergency situation? No. To put it in perspective, any large supermarket has about 40,000 products in stock. That there are a few hundred missing is quantitatively irrelevant. The problem with Brexit, especially in Northern Ireland – but not only there – is the symbolic issue and all the lies that Brexit advocates have been scattering over the past four years to achieve their goals. If the situation is not resolved, the political cost may end up taking its toll, perhaps not immediately, but in the long term. Among other reasons, because of what it involves a progressive distancing of Northern Ireland from Great Britain and also a progressive rapprochement with the Republic of Ireland.

Beyond the images that the networks have spread, the true reality of Brexit is summarized by Professor Anand Menon, from King’s College London, and director of the think tank UK in a Changing Europe: “The agreement signed does not imply the maintenance of the state. For companies it means the imposition of new controls, a multitude of forms that must be filled out. In other words, trade between the European Union and the United Kingdom will be more difficult, slower and more expensive. Brexit will have a negative impact in the short and medium term on the British economy. “

The empty shelves in Northern Ireland, although they end up filling, are the witness of the breakage at a specific moment. The requisitioned sandwiches in the Netherlands, however, will not be a simple anecdote. They will be our bread and butter for the British when they want to cross the English Channel without stopping in a service area.


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