MOST manufacturers in the north want to make the Northern Ireland protocol work, according to a new survey.
Research carried out by Manufacturing NI confirmed around one-in-four firms (23.7 per cent) are struggling with the new post-Brexit transition era with little expectation of their situation improving.
But just 19 per cent said the protocol should be replaced, just slightly higher than the 16 per cent who answered in a similar way last last year.
The majority of the 355 manufacturers responding to the latest survey appear more willing to work within the new reality, with around half confirming they were either on top of the issues or had experienced no impact at all.
Another 99 firms (27.9 per cent) said while they are currently struggling with the new processes, those issues are likely to ease.
Just 10 per cent said sales to Britain had been significantly impacted under the protocol. Almost 60 per cent reported similar or improved sales to GB in the past month.
Manufacturing NI said: “January was difficult but it is clear from the survey findings that most manufacturers want the protocol to work. Many believe they are getting on top of issues and looking towards opportunities.
“However, many predict that difficulties will persist and are appealing for the support from our Executive, the UK Government, the EU and its member states to make the protocol work.”
Some 87 firms (24.5 per cent) said they had already switched to local supply chains or reorientated to the EU.
Manufacturing NI said that despite 11 months to prepare during the transition phase, the lack of detail and late introduction of new post-Brexit processes left little time for firms to understand and respond to the new complex arrangements.
The industry body said the new Trader Support Service went live on December 21 2020, while most manufacturers were closed for the Christmas holiday period.
“In many ways they [businesses] were ‘thrown in at the deep end’,” said the industry group.
But one month on from the implementation of the protocol, Manufacturing NI said four-in-five firms are now in a “good, stable position”.
The industry body said many post-Brexit issues could have been easier resolved if an implementation period been provided, with the issue over steel tariffs a case point.
Local firms were facing an unexpected 25 per cent tariff on steel as a result of EU safeguarding.
With the situation quickly resolved, Manufacturing NI Northern Ireland companies now at an added advantage.
Some 189 local firms (53 per cent) said their GB suppliers were unprepared for the new requirements. Another 54 companies (15 per cent) said their suppliers in GB were unwilling to even engage with the new requirements.
Manufacturing NI said while the fears that a part of the GB supply chain would simply cut Northern Ireland out had not been realised, it described the 15 per cent figure as “significant”.
The body said it is critical for the UK and EU agree simplifications to make sending goods to the north straightforward.
“If they do not, the only choice for our firms will be to find new suppliers at home or overseas.”
Although 70 per cent of respondents reported no issues with their EU supply lines, Manufacturing NI warned of a “perverse” scenario of ingredients, components and raw materials entering the UK from the EU tariff free under the trade deal, with Northern Ireland companies left unable to benefit from the tariff free deal, due to the products being viewed “at risk”.
The industry group even manufacturers with significant experience in rules of origin, are struggling to comprehend the situation.
“This also presents a danger as many will not be aware that EU inputs into products made in NI and sold to the EU may in fact attract a tariff. This urgently needs resolved.”
Ultimately, Manufacturing NI has said the UK Government, the Executive and the EU must make the protocol work through combination of educating suppliers, supporting businesses experiencing cost burdens and simplifying processes and controls.
— to www.irishnews.com