Northern Ireland’s Jewish community is facing a looming kosher food shortage due to post-Brexit trade disagreements between the EU and Great Britain, the UK Jewish News reported.
The UK government’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis called the possibility that Jews in Northern Ireland will have difficulties importing kosher food “despicable.”
He told the Jewish News that the EU was not fairly engaging with Britain on the issue of trade to resolve “underlying problems” causing disruptions to daily life in the UK.
Lewis noted the very real possibility that the small Jewish community in Belfast would no longer be able to import a steady supply of kosher food from mainland Britain.
Without access to kosher food, the community in the capital of Northern Ireland is in danger of collapsing, Jewish leaders warned in July when the issue first came to light.
Kosher food supplies are current being shipped to Northern Ireland through interim arrangements, with the British government pledging to safeguard supplies of kosher meat shipped to the Belfast community, reported the European Jewish Congress.
That arrangement was expected to end this month. However, the UK unilaterally extended the interim period for importing chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The EU responded that it “took note” of the decision.
“To have the EU effectively saying to the Jewish community you can’t source your products in your own country is a pretty despicable place to be,” Lewis said. “And to not understand that an elderly, vulnerable community like that cannot travel 100 miles each way once a week to get their shopping, I think is pretty poor form. I find that disgraceful, to be frank.”
He added that the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol “in its current state [is] not sustainable.”
“The practice of the implementation is not working for the people of Northern Ireland. It is disrupting everyday lives of people and their communities,” he said. “You’ve probably seen the stories around the challenges that the Jewish community’s having… Everybody is suffering, businesses are struggling to get goods over, it’s not respecting the internal market of the UK.”