Northern Ireland Protocol progress welcome, but unfinished business remains, says Farry

Progress on the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol following a UK-EU agreement in principle is welcome but unfinished business on the issue remains, Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said.

The North Down MP was speaking after Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove outlined to Parliament details of the agreement in principle.

“The Protocol is the product of Brexit itself and the particular choices made by the UK to leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market. The Protocol is a much blunter means to address the resulting challenges than the Backstop. But all forms of Brexit do entail some degree of friction, and there is no escaping that fundamental reality,” said Dr Farry.

“Along with others, Alliance has been seeking as many flexibilities and derogations as possible. This amounts to changing a solid line down the Irish Sea to a dotted line. I do therefore acknowledge the progress that has been made by the UK Government and EU in this agreement in principle around the Protocol. Outcomes are coming very late to give people to prepare. The political games around the Internal Market Bill have been self-defeating.

“This provisional agreement is helpful in many respects, but I am conscious many of the derogations are rather time-limited, and there is not yet the long-term certainty on many challenges facing local companies. I will continue to pursue stronger protections in that regard.

“Outside the Protocol, there is still much unfinished business in order to maximise potential to the Northern Ireland economy. This list includes access to EU Free Trade Agreements, which is important to the agrifood sector, transit from Great Britain to Northern Ireland via the Republic of Ireland, data adequacy, and the future of the all-island service sector. We will continue to raise these.”