Source: Getty Images

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is urging the government to row back on plans to introduce ‘Not for EU’ labelling by next year.

Implementing the new standards by the 2025 deadline would also pose “substantial challenges” and create additional costs for wholesalers, it said.

The FWD warned the plans would “disrupt the food and drink supply chain”, as well as increasing costs and reducing availability and range.

The government introduced ‘Not for EU’ labels on certain goods destined for Northern Ireland last October as part of the Windsor Framework supporting post-Brexit trade. 

All retail goods will have to display the new label from 1 July 2025.

Wholesale members in Northern Ireland fear their Republic of Ireland customers could shift towards EU-based suppliers due to fewer restrictions, the FWD reported.

Some member suppliers in England would not be ready to supply products to Northern Ireland if additional labelling was required, it added.

“The proposals fundamentally do not work for the wholesale sector, their suppliers, or for consumers”, said FWD CEO James Bielby.

“The current system of the red lane and the UK internal market system is working well for the wholesale sector. This should remain in place until the UK can establish a system which works well for businesses operating in the UK who trade across the border.

“The short timeline for implementing new labelling standards presents substantial challenges. Wholesalers need to reconfigure their supply chain, adjust to inventory management systems, and revise labelling for their own brand products. All of this comes at a huge cost and a long implementation period.”

Additionally, the FWD is advocating for the government to make certain products exempt from labelling requirements by introducing a minimum volume threshold, after wholesale members have reported having to double their product order to comply with labelling and MOQ.

The labelling system was created to guarantee products in Northern Ireland do not cross into the Republic of Ireland as part of the post-Brexit internal market system.

Dairy and meat are already required to have an individual ‘Not for EU’ label since October 2023 across supermarkets in Northern Ireland.