Foreign minister James Cleverly told peers that it was “logical that something we ask Northern Ireland to do, we should ask the UK to do” as a whole.
He stressed to peers that “the starting point in all our thinking and actions is that Northern Ireland is an absolutely intrinsic part of the United Kingdom”, adding: “I absolutely mean it – Northern Ireland is as much part of the UK as north Essex where my constituency is situated.”
As such, he is “very comfortable” having a UK-wide labelling regime.
Cleverly made his remarks during a meeting of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee at the House of Lords today.
Retailers have not yet been informed of details regarding the size and prominence the labeling will take.
The issue emerged after former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie (now a Labour peer) quizzed Mr Cleverly about a planned October 1 start date for “new ‘not for EU’ labelling requirements”.
Mr Cleverly replied that he had “listened extrensively to retailers”, and that the best way forward was to make the new labels a requirement for the whole UK, not just for goods in Northern Ireland.
‘I absolutely mean it – Northern Ireland is as much part of the UK as north Essex where my constituency is situated’
“The centre of gravity of the voices we had was UK-wide labelling was the preferred option,” he said.
“There are advantages and disadvantages in a UK-wide system of labeling.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to labrelling only in NI.”
When it comes to the govermnet’s own view, “part of it is practical, and part of it is philosophical,” he said.
“The retailers said they would prefer a UK wide regime.
“Philosophically I keep saying NI’s part of the UK. Therefore, it seems logical to me that we should ask UK to do something we ask NI for.
“I’m comfortable with a UK-wide system.” The details of that will in due course, or shortly…”
Ms Ritchie asked: “What do you mean by ‘in due course’?”
Mr Cleverly replied: “Whilst autumn of this year is that start point, it will be phased, and phased through the next couple of years through to 2025.
“We have been talking about this for quite some time including in the command paper in 2021, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise with the retail sector…
“I’m certain there’ll also be technical details on size and priminence and such.
“I will get the details for you.” [retailers] In writing
I’m not a retail store. I don’t want to implty simplicity where there might be complexity.”
However, he reiterated that the matter had been “discussed extensively” with the retail sector.
It is not totally clear which goods this will apply to, but Mr Cleverly said food retailers had been especially “animated” about the challenges this would pose.