The Strategic Director of City and Neighbourhood Services advised that planning for a ‘no deal’ Brexit had been formally halted and the focus was now on preparing within the context of the Withdrawal Agreement. He confirmed that officers continued to engage with central government departments, including the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Communities. He advised that the Council would shortly commence a review of the Business Continuity Management templates for the Council's critical services and these would be updated in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement. He stated that Members would be kept updated on the process.
The City Protection Manager provided an update in relation to the implications of the NI Protocol on Food Safety and Port Health. He reminded the Committee of the Council’s regulatory function responsibility of canned, chilled and non-prepacked and Fish and highlighted that DAERA was responsible for the following produce:
· Canned, chilled and non-prepacked products of animal origin (excluding fish);
· Commercial pets;
· Animal By Products;
· Live fish; and
· Plant health e.g. timber
He advised that the following assumptions were being made in relation to further checks at the Port, post Brexit:
· Foods from Great Britain to be subject to EU checks on entry to Belfast;
· A vast increase in the volume of foods subject to import controls;
· A wider range of product types than the Belfast Council Port was currently approved to handle;
· ‘Roll on Roll off’ freight would be subject to checks for the first time;
· The need to provide service on disembarkation with minimum delays;
· New facilities required and improved technology and processes; and
· More staff resources and shift working.
The City Protection Manager presented an overview of the new Brexit infrastructure that had been built in Dublin for the ‘Roll on Roll Off’ checks and inspection facilities.
He concluded that data collection and verification was needed to establish volumetrics and inform infrastructure requirements, together with analysis and the redesign of processes to remove delays. He also highlighted the need to support trader readiness to avoid any disruption.
During discussion, the City Protection Manager answered a range of questions in relation to the impact on the Belfast Port and confirmed that it was a matter for DAERA to decide if further infrastructure was required in Belfast, however, it might be put in place to futureproof the risk of divergence of products over time. He reiterated that there would be a transition period until the end of December to implement new processes.
Moved by Councillor McLaughlin,
Seconded by Councillor McAteer and
Resolved – The Committee agrees to undertake a study visit to the Port Health Unit Facilities in Belfast and Dublin.
The Committee noted that, if possible, both visits should be undertaken on the same day, subject to Strategic Policy and Resources Committee budget approval.
After discussion, the Committee also agreed that information in relation to goods, products and services being exported from Northern Ireland would be reported at a future meeting.