UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the high level of red tape involved in importing kosher meat from England into Northern Ireland as “insane” during a visit to a synagogue in Belfast this week.
Johnson was visiting the synagogue to speak to concerns from leaders of the small Belfast Jewish community about regulations that make it difficult to import kosher products. He said he was “heartily sickened” by the difficulty faced by the community of around 100 members in sourcing kosher meat.
The community’s meat mainly comes from Manchester, as there is no kosher butcher in Northern Ireland, the Irish Times reported.
Leaders had previously warned that post-Brexit regulations meant increased difficulty in sourcing kosher goods, specifically meat products, which endangered the survival of the community.
Rabbi David Kale, the chief rabbi for Belfast’s Jewish community, called for a religious exemption last year to the complex regulations now in place on importing kosher meat.
“It’s insane that these checks are taking place and we will see this situation resolved,” Johnson said.
In December 2021, it was reported that a kosher food shortage might mean the end of Jews in Northern Ireland, with trade issues between the UK and EU having led to “cupboards nearly bare of kosher foods” for Northern Ireland's already dwindling Jewish population.
The British government had pledged earlier in the year to safeguard the Belfast community’s access to a steady supply of kosher meat, with a group of leaders, including UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Michael Black, the head of the Belfast Jewish community, meeting in London with UK Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to ask for the government’s help.