Tate & Lyle Sugars, a prominent corporate backer of Brexit, has warned of sugar and syrup shortages in Northern Ireland in the new year, due to lack of clarity over the UK and EU trade relationship.
The company is the largest cane sugar brand in the UK and supplies the main supermarkets in Northern Ireland. It has advised retailers to draw up contingency plans to source sugar and syrup from elsewhere, because it will struggle to get its products to them next year, according to ITV News.
Tate & Lyle Sugars, which was sold by Tate & Lyle plc to American Sugar Refining in 2010, said the uncertainty over Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol was likely to cause significant outages in Northern Ireland. The company owns the Thames Refinery in London, the biggest sugar refinery in Europe.
Tate & Lyle Sugars, one of the few large companies that have publicly backed Brexit, has also donated to the Conservatives. It is in line to save £73m from a post-Brexit trade overhaul, after a long lobbying campaign by the firm.
Gerald Mason, the senior vice president of Tate & Lyle Sugars, said: “As a responsible supplier, we have been working with our Northern Ireland customers on solutions that will allow us to continue supplying Northern Ireland shoppers after 1 January.
“To support that, we need the EU and UK to agree commonsense rules that prioritise the Northern Ireland consumer by recognising there is little risk from allowing existing trade to continue. We know officials on both sides are working hard to negotiate exactly this to ensure security of supply.”
The firm took part in a conference call organised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, alongside other manufacturers, retailers and distributors. Associated British Foods (ABF), the company behind Twinings and Ryvita, is also thought to have expressed concerns at the lack of clarity about the future trading arrangements for Northern Ireland. It has a factory in Belfast.
An ABF spokesperson said: “Along with many other participants of the food industry, we are engaged in an open and constructive discussion with officials to identify potential issues, so that solutions can be identified well in advance.”
Under the protocol, Northern Ireland will remain in the UK when the transition period ends on 31 December, but will also continue to be part of the single market and enforce the EU’s customs rules from next year.
The UK government has promised Northern Ireland businesses “unfettered access” on goods going to the rest of the UK, but this does not apply to goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
A government spokesman said: “The UK and the EU have committed to an intensified process of engagement to resolve all outstanding issues with the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol which includes securing the flexibilities we need for trade from Britain to Northern Ireland.
“This is particularly important for supermarkets, where we have been clear specific solutions are required. We will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland executive as discussions continue with the EU through the joint committee process.”