NI Protocol: Northern Ireland handles more import paperwork than whole of France

Northern Ireland is currently processing more forms for animal imports than any EU country.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 9:22 am
Staff working at the Port of Larne

That is according to Robert Huey, Northern Ireland’s chief vet, speaking at Stormont’s agriculture committee this week.

He was summoned before MLAs to be quizzed about the volume of red tape firms now face thanks to the NI Protocol

At the meeting on Thursday he unveiled some bombshell figures, which have not been heavily reported, but which give the scale of the bureaucratic headaches caused by the so-called Irish Sea Border.

Mr Huey declared that “Northern Ireland, with its 1.8 million people, is doing more import checks for products of animal origin than France” – a nation of some 65 million people.

He also said that “the number of CHED-Ps [a type of form required for importing animal products] that we are doing at the moment represents about 20% of all the CHED-Ps done anywhere in the EU”.

He continued: “We’re the biggest. So we do more than France who’s second, or Germany or Spain or any other country. That sort of puts it into perspective for me.”

Mr Huey said he needed 27 vets in order to keep up with the sheer scale of red tape his officials are now faced with at NI ports.

However, he only has 12.

“It doesn’t give very much room for people to get leave or people to have a proper work-life balance – it’s a real issue for me,” he said.

“The vet work is twofold; there’s a paperwork part to it, where all these common health entry documents and certificates we talk about have to be signed off, and most of them have to be signed off by a vet.

“There’s that job, then there’s actual overseeing physical inspections. So there’s two jobs.

“At the moment we’re doing our best to try and keep the documents moving... but we’re not doing the level of physical checks we’d need because we just don’t have the staff, and to some extent we don’t have the facilities.

“It’s the pure volume that I don’t think we or the commission or anyone anticipated.

“The figures are astronomical as to what we’re doing. we’re doing about 325 documentary checks by a vet per day. and that’s a lot.

“A very simple indicator is one I heard from my frontline staff yesterday; we’re doing 325 documentary checks a day, and Rotterdam I believe does 125.

“We reached a peak where we were able to do 38% of the physical checks we should have been doing, but there have been times when we’ve been down as low as the mid-20s.”

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