There are “still some real challenges to sort out” before the threat to kosher food supplies in Northern Ireland is removed, the Conservative frontbencher Viscount Younger of Leckie has admitted.
Lord Younger was asked to give a “commitment” to the House of Lords that there is no threat to the availability of kosher in the region as a result of the UK government’s signing of protocol – the part of the Brexit deal that creates a border in the Irish Sea.
He replied:”We announced in March that arrangements for supermarkets and their suppliers who are trusted traders supplying food will continue until October, meaning that they do not need to complete health certificate paperwork.
“But as they have made clear to us, notwithstanding the considerable government investment to support these efforts, there are still some real challenges to sort out.”
Boris Johnson had admitted last week that a post-Brext trade dispute threatened to cut off kosher food supplies to Northern Ireland and lead to an “exodus” of Jews in the region.
Lord Dodds had initially raised concerns expressed by the Jewish community in Northern Ireland about its future there as a result of a chilled meat ban linked to the protocol.
“Very worryingly, the Chief Rabbi and Jewish leaders in Belfast have expressed great concerns about the operation of the protocol and the continued viability of the Jewish community,” said Lord Dodds.
“The Prime Minister has also expressed concerns.”
He asked Lord Younger on Wednesday what would happen once a grace period that had protected kosher food supplies runs out in September.
Lord Younger said this was “a key focus for government to support that community. ”
He added that while he could not give any guarantees he could stress that “every effort is being made to move forward and find solutions to these problems.”
Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat peers, along with representatives of the Ulster Union Party all stressed vital and great contribution of the Jewish community in Nothern Ireland, even though the community in Belfast is now estimated to be no bigger than 100.
Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel group, added: “My Lords, there is a joke that the structure of Jewish holidays can be simply put as: ‘They tried to kill us; we won; let’s eat’, so availability of kosher food is important, especially to a small community as in Northern Ireland.
“The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right honourable Brandon Lewis, is a true friend of the community, and I am grateful, as has been said, that he found time to meet the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies last week. ”
After the meeting last Friday Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had said communal life there risked becoming “unviable”.
The Reverend David Kale, a minister for Belfast’s Jewish community, said he feared the ban would “cause the community to completely die”.
Responding to Lord Polak, Lord Younger said:”Perhaps a discussion on the importance of eating is for a separate debate but I take the first point that my noble friend made with the due seriousness it deserves.
“We are mindful that many communities in Northern Ireland have specialised foods which are deeply important to their culture and spiritual beliefs, and we will always act to ensure that these are adequately supplied.
“However, I assure my noble friend that, in the supermarkets we have been in touch with, we are pleased to note that there is no disruption at this time, although there were specific issues during Passover which he will know about, and which the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs helped the sector to navigate.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.