Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has lashed out at the “offensive” regulations, while pro-Brexit campaigner Jayne Adye described the situation as “beyond ridiculous”. The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative is calling on UK citizens to “plant a tree for the Jubilee” as a way of marking Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne.
However, given many British trees are currently banned from crossing the Irish Sea in accordance with rules set down in the hated Northern Ireland protocol, this is easier said than done.
Under the terms of the protocol, Northern Ireland adheres to EU rules in terms plant health, meaning non-EU imports of certain trees are banned.
As a result, British nurseries are have been prevented from exporting species including English Oak, yew, beech, honeysuckle and elm, to Northern Ireland and the EU ever since post-Brexit rules came into force on December 31, 2020.
Additionally, apple, poplar, willow, beech and birch are also on the banned list, even though the UK Government earlier this year unilaterally lifted an EU ban on imports to Northern Ireland of plants which have been potted in British soil.
Sir Jeffrey said: “It is madness that we cannot plant UK trees from the mainland in our own country to celebrate Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee.
“It is offensive that British soil, seeds, plants and trees cannot be transported from one part of the UK to another.”
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Ms Adye, director of Get Britain Out, told Express.co.uk: “This block on various types of trees because they may bring about ‘contaminated British soil into Northern Ireland’, is simply the latest in the long line of examples of EU petulance and nit-picking which show the entire UK will never be free from the control of the EU until the Northern Ireland Protocol is replaced or removed entirely.
“The UK already has some of the highest plant health standards in Europe and has no interest in lowering these after Brexit.
“For the EU to try and cut off Northern Ireland from products created in other parts of the UK is beyond ridiculous and shows they have no interest in respecting the principles of the Good Friday Agreement – which makes clear Northern Ireland is part of the UK.
The Woodland Trust confirmed it was unable to send trees to Northern Ireland from the British mainland.
In a statement, it said: “Unfortunately, recent changes to regulations through the NI protocol mean we are currently unable to ship our trees to Northern Ireland.”
Tony Johnston from NI Farm Forestry added: “My frustration is I cannot get the trees in.
“There is a very, very limited supply of what’s available.”
James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, added: “Having a list of banned domestic trees that are grown in some of the healthiest environments in Europe seems crazy.
”It is even more crazy that we can’t export our own trees to part of the United Kingdom that remains part of the United Kingdom.”
One British nursery had been prevented from sending 2,500 oaks to the island of Ireland by the ban, Mr Barnes said.
Another nursery lost an estimated 10 percent of its annual exports there, he added.
Despite talks on Friday between UK Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, no solution to the impasse over the protocol has yet been found.