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M&S boss claims Brexit row has cost retailer £30million and fumes at ‘documents in Latin’

The protocol was put in place following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and was created to stop a hard border splitting the island of Ireland. Designed to keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market, UK ministers have raised complaints that EU checks on goods travelling across the Irish Sea has sparked delays, disruptions, and tensions.

M&S chief Archie Norman called the protocol “very, very onerous” on Tuesday, and emphasised that it is “very, very tough” for the company to match the rules currently in force.

The former Tory MP told the BBC: “At the moment, wagons arriving in the Republic of Ireland have to carry 700 pages of documentation.

“It takes about eight hours to prepare the documentation.

“Some of the descriptors, particularly of animal products, have to be in Latin.

“It has to be in a certain typeface.

“We employ 13 vets in Motherwell to prepare it all.”

The impact of the protocol, compounded by the need for “30 percent more driver time”, he said, cost M&S “around £30million”.

Mr Norman then added: “The EU is looking for us to impose comparable controls for Northern Ireland.

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“Were that to happen, it would mean that quite a lot of product from the UK simply wouldn’t get to Northern Ireland and what does go there would be very, very costly.”

The company has previously blamed post-Brexit bureaucracy for the closure of 11 of its outlets in France, citing problems supplying perishable foods since the UK left the EU.

Last year, M&S called it “near impossible” to maintain food standards after Brexit in collaboration with partner organisation SFH.

Paul Friston, managing director of international for M&S said: “M&S has a long history of serving customers in France and this is not a decision we or our partner SFH have taken lightly.”

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He added: “However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.

“With no workable alternative for the High Street stores, we have agreed with SFH to close all 11 franchised stores.”

The British retailer then announced that it was attempting to source more of its goods for its Irish stores locally after issues with post-Brexit food export regulations.

M&S said it was “gradually increasing” its product range in Irish stores but that “complex checks” had meant it cut 800 lines from its shops in the Republic of Ireland.

They laid the blame on “long and complex export processes” impacting the shelf-life of products and exhaustive paperwork for individual ingredients within a food product.

This comes as Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said it was “never on the cards” to introduce new laws suspending parts of the protocol this week.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had been expected to propose a new law which could overrule some parts of the Brexit treaty.

However, Mr Lewis said the UK wanted to resolve issues with the protocol “by agreement with the EU”, but the current arrangement is “not working properly”.

He told Sky News: “Something like that this week was never on the cards.

“But what we have always said is that we will not take anything off the table.”

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