Northern Ireland

The B Words

Hallelujah! The children on the hill have put their toys back in their prams and Stormont is functional once again. Some positive political news for once.

But this post isn’t about the Shinners or DUP, (who surely deserve that £1,000 per MLA pay rise after being back to work for, what, one week?)

It’s about Brexit and Boris. I’m going to use these words in the next paragraph so bear with me. I also say ‘breweries’ so it’s not all bad.

Our MLAs may have voted against the PM’s Brexit deal this week but Boris has a thumping majority of MPs in Westminster which allows him to push through whatever deal he sees fit.  So what does the looming leave date of January 31st mean for Northern Ireland’s breweries with regards exporting beyond our wee country?  If there’s a customs border down the middle of the Irish Sea, will brewers who already ship beer to GB face extra paperwork, hassle and potential loss of sales?

Not according to the Prime Minister. Standing in Stormont’s Great Hall last week, he said he could not see any circumstances whatever in which there will be any need for checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB. There’s plenty of talk about goods going the other way and this BBC report states there would be a customs border down the Irish Sea for goods coming into NI but there’s less certainty about the reverse NI-GB route. Here’s what some of our brewers have to say on the matter.

William from Bullhouse Brew Co in Newtownards fears a huge upsurge in admin, stating 30% of his recent sales were to online distributor Eebria for GB pubs and off sales. Would a new Brexit deal mean extra documentation in order to be able sell directly to consumers in GB?

Tom from Mourne Mountains Brewery in Warrenpoint agrees with the likelihood of extra admin but is more concerned with the impact on the rate of sterling, and purchasing quality hops and malt from outside the UK could be less affordable if the pound plummets.

Matt from Boundary Brewing in Belfast also adds his concerns on the pound/euro rate and wants a reassurance that the Small Breweries’ Relief (which provides a 50% discount on beer duty to brewers producing under 880,000 pints per year) is maintained.

As you can certainly see, this blog post isn’t meant to be an in-depth probe of the UK/EU customs debacle – that’s for journalists who know an awful lot more about it than me – but I know one thing for sure, not many know what’s going on.

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Original image credit: ESA

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