Boris Johnson ‘heartily sickened’ by disruption of kosher food supply

During a visit to Belfast’s synagogue, the prime minister pledged to fix the situation.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Monday to help the Northern Ireland Jewish community overcome problems regarding delivery of kosher meat caused by post-Brexit bureaucracy.

During a visit to Belfast’s one and only synagogue, Johnson called the level of red tape “insane” and said he was “heartily sickened” by the situation that was leaving families short of a basic need.

“There is simply no need for such laborious checks on products uniquely important to the Jewish community being moved from Great Britain into Northern Ireland,” he said.

“We will see this situation resolved,” he vowed.

When Great Britain broke away from the EU two years ago, its territory on the northern tip of Ireland stayed in the European Single Market in relation to goods, and the subsequent problems related to border controls has been an ongoing issue between the two sides.

The Belfast Jewish Community Synagogue imports chicken and meat in bulk several times a year from Manchester, as the 500-strong Jewish population cannot support a local kosher slaughterhouse. Considering the community’s size, the amount it requires is not large, but small suppliers have even more difficulty than larger ones in cutting through the bureaucracy.

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The community’s leaders have complained several times about the difficulty receiving goods from across the Irish Sea. Community chairman Michael Black told the Jewish News in February that it has been “very embarrassing having to push this issue” with government officials but they will continue to “rattle cages” if necessary.

Last year, Rev. David Kale, rabbi of the Belfast synagogue, asked that an exemption be made on the import controls based on religious grounds.

Kale told The Jewish Chronicle that the community was “very honored” that the prime minister had taken the time to visit them during his time in the capital and found him “very sympathetic” to their cause.

The post-Brexit trade problems between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in general were a large part of the reason Johnson visited Belfast.  The Catholic, nationalist Sinn Fein party won the elections earlier this month, but according to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the region, it must share power with the Protestant, pro-U.K. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP is currently balking due to all the customs difficulties the Northern Irish Protocol of the Brexit deal is causing to the free movement of goods.

Johnson, who would like to renegotiate the Protocol even though the EU is refusing, has threatened to act unilaterally on the issue. He has been urging the parties to form a government despite their disagreements.