Some Irish whiskey and dairy products, produced on a cross border basis, are no longer recognised as EU products when sold to third countries, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, explained to Senators today that EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) do not recognise processing outside the bloc and therefore some Irish products, with inputs from Northern Ireland, have lost their EU originating status. He said that a similar situation has arisen for products once recognised as British.
This can result in tariffs being applied to whiskey and dairy products that are sold to third countries.
The Northern Ireland Protocol ensures that products sold within the EU or UK are not affected.
Mr Lavelle appeared before the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, alongside representatives from Dairy Industry Ireland and the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland.
All three asked that the European Commission consider new rules of origin in all future EU Free Trade Agreements, to protect cross-border supply chains.
They believe that such a change should begin with the Australia FTA.
Mr Levelle told the committee that Ireland is the home of whiskey, "we've been making whiskey for longer than any other nation in the world".
As part of that production process, whiskey produced in one distillery can be brought across the border to be matured in another jurisdiction, either North to South or vice versa.
Blended whiskeys often have components from different sides of the border and there are also cases where whiskey is produced entirely in the South but bottled in the North and therefore loses the EU originating status, he explained.
Director of Dairy Industry Ireland Conor Mulvihill echoed those points.
He said it was well known that milk is transported across the border every day and is used for products such butter, cheese, infant formula, and specialised nutrition.
"Irish cream liqueur, it's where dairy and whiskey actually meet, that product is an all-island product", he pointed out.
All three associations voiced their strong support for the Northern Ireland Protocol.
"Is it perfect? No, there's elements of it that need fixed, but please do not kill the protocol because it has allowed us to continue with the trade flows uninterrupted", Dr Mike Johnston, Chief Executive of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, told the committee.
Dr Johnston expressed concern that much of the focus in recent times has been on the Irish Sea dimension of the protocol, but he said that the all-island aspect also needs attention.