The Northern Ireland Protocol is an inevitable consequence of of the UK’s hard Brexit, Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said.
Dr Farry was speaking after the publication of a paper on the UK Government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol. It confirmed expanded infrastructure at ports in Northern Ireland to carry out checks on animals and food products coming from the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland will also continue to follow some EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods.
The North Down MP said all opportunities to reduce and mitigate the impact of of the Irish Sea interface must be taken.
“It is important to recall the Protocol is the sad and inevitable outcome of the UK Government’s decision to pursue a hard Brexit over the heads of the people of Northern Ireland and the consequent need to protect the particular circumstances of this region and the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Protocol is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and seeking to duck and evade the arising responsibilities would be counterproductive and dangerous. Its implementation is essential, but within that context every effort should be made to reduce and mitigate the impact of regulatory checks and requirements, and tariff barriers.
“Unfettered access from Northern Ireland to Great Britain is much more readily achievable. But we must accept even with the most far-reaching UK-EU future relationship, there will be at the very least be additional checks re agri-food. Government must recognise this is a significant step up from the existing practice and scale of operation in relation to live animals. The closer the ongoing alignment between the UK and EU in terms of the future relationship and its trade deal, the softer the impact of the Irish Sea interface.
“This paper is the view of the UK Government on how the Protocol can be forward. As a reality check, it must be acknowledged much of this will need to be agreed with the EU. A massive amount of work is still required to implement the Protocol and give certainty to businesses and other stakeholders. Timescales are already very tight, if not impossible, and the Government must provide much more detail on that urgently.
“Ultimately, given the need to focus on the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, Alliance believes the UK Government must now seek an extension to the Brexit transition period.”