Prime Minister admits possible Jewish ‘exodus’ from Northern Ireland over Brexit deal

Chief Rabbi and Board in urgent meeting with government to seek resolution for kosher food shortages in region  


The Albert Memorial Clock Tower in Belfast is located in the Queen's Square

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken of an “exodus” of Jews from Northern Ireland if problems with the post-Brexit arrangements for the region continue to lead to shortages of kosher supplies.

The government’s Brexit deal included a section called the Northern Ireland Protocol, under which goods – and especially food products - moving between the region and England, Scotland or Wales would be checked at ports to make sure they comply with EU rules.

For now, some kosher food continues to flow to the community - but under interim arrangements that expire at the end of September.

Jewish groups on both sides of the Irish Sea fear that if kosher food and religious artefacts cannot be supplied at all when the Northern Ireland Protocol is fully implemented, its community of around 100 people is likely to collapse

The Prime Minister’s comments followed a meeting on Tuesday between Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Reverend David Kale and Michael Black of the Belfast Jewish Community and President of the Board of Deputies Marie van der Zyl.

At the meeting, the government was warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol was putting Jewish life in the region in jeopardy.

Speaking at the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: “Only yesterday there were very serious representations from the Jewish community in Northern Ireland, who pointed out that because of the problem with the food sector, it was becoming difficult for them to have timely access—or any access—to kosher food.

"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.”

Marie 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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