Boris Johnson warns of Jewish ‘exodus’ from Northern Ireland due to Brexit protocol he signed

PM blames disruption of kosher food supplies on ‘grossly disproportionate’ EU application of rules

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 07 July 2021 23:42
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Boris Johnson warns of Jewish ‘exodus’ from Northern Ireland due to Brexit protocol

Boris Johnson has warned of an “exodus” of Jewish people from Northern Ireland as a consequence of the protocol he agreed as part of his Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson told MPs the government had been approached by representatives of the Jewish community in the province who raised fears over supplies of kosher food under post-Brexit trade rules which the PM negotiated and signed in 2019 and which began coming into effect in January.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Mr Johnson again attempted to blame disruption of food supplies on the European Union’s implementation of the new regulations.

He suggested that the onus was on the EU, rather than the UK, to make concessions in the joint committee set up to oversee the operations of his Northern Ireland protocol, which avoided a hard border with the Republic by effectively creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.

And he insisted that the UK had “faithfully” fulfilled its side of the protocol bargain, despite the launch by Brussels of legal action over unilateral breaches by London.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, joined David Kale and Michael Black of the Belfast Jewish community in a meeting with Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis on Tuesday to call for action to avoid the protocol “potentially ending Jewish life in Belfast”.

They said that supplies of foods that comply with dietary guidelines set by traditional Jewish law from the British mainland will end in September under the terms of the protocol.

And they warned: “If kosher food and religious artefacts cannot be supplied, the community is likely to collapse.”

Mr Johnson told MPs the government had received “very serious representations” from the Jewish community that “because of the problem with the food sector, it was becoming difficult to for them to have timely access – or any access – to kosher food”.

He told the liaison committee: “They are talking now about an exodus from Northern Ireland by the Jewish community.

“Clearly, we want to do everything we can to avoid that and to sort it out.

“But it’s going to take our friends in the joint committee to make some movement and to make that movement pretty fast.”

He indicated that the UK government is not planning any concessions on its side to help resolve the situation.

“I think we’ve been very clear that we are implementing the protocol,” he said. “The UK is a faithful obedient servant of the law.

“The things that I have described are a direct result of what UK officials are doing in upholding the law and obeying the EU jurisdiction.

“The problem is that I think – and I think any impartial listener of this conversation would think – the way the EU is trying to implement the protocol is currently grossly disproportionate and unnecessary.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Deputies said that Mr Lewis had pledged the government’s support on the issue.

Ms van der Zyl said: “The Belfast Jewish community is a great community with a rich history, but also an older and vulnerable one. We thank the minister for his time, and urge the UK and the EU to generate a creative solution which means that Jews can continue to practise their faith in Northern Ireland.”

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