Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol
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Brandon Lewis made the light-hearted remark about British produce amid the ongoing dispute surrounding the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK and EU have accused each other of acting in bad faith in relation to part of their deal covering the movement of goods to Northern Ireland.
Last week, Britain took the unilateral decision to extend the grace period for checks on goods in order to give firms more time to adjust.
The EU has since threatened legal action against the UK and claimed the move could breach the Brexit divorce deal.
Additional checks and health certificates for animal product were due to come into force on April 1, but have been delayed for six months.
Mr Lewis has defended the UK’s decision to extend the grace period and insisted Government is working towards a solution.
In the wake of the prospect on more checks on fresh produce, Mr Lewis pointed out a Norfolk sausage being transported from Belfast to Dublin would not pose a threat to the bloc.
Speaking to News Letter, he said: “We want to do this with the EU; we want to find a way that works. With a bit of goodwill, we can work through that.
“But ultimately, the Prime Minister has been clear – we want to ensure that the great Norfolk sausage or Melton Mowbray pork pie can be enjoyed anywhere in the UK, including Belfast.”
He added: “I personally don’t think that the great British banger is a great threat to the single market of the EU and I’m not sure that the risk of somebody smuggling a Norfolk sausage from Belfast to Dublin for sale is the biggest threat out there.
“So I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get a mutually agreeable solution.”
He added the aim of the UK Government is to make sure there is no disparities for consumers living across the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was created to prevent a hard border on the Island of Ireland and protect the integrity of EU markets.
As a compromise, Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union and single market.
The Prime Minister embarked on a trip to Northern Ireland on Friday to try and smooth out tensions.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney had warned “politics is very strained” in the region due to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Coveney said the European Commission feels it has no option but to take legal action to the European Court of Justice, but believes other avenues should be explored to resolve the issues.
Boris Johnson insisted protocol was necessitating more processes and checks than it should and that is why the Government moved to delay its mplementation until longer-term solutions are found with the EU.
He said: “What I didn’t want to see was loads of checks on stuff going from GB to NI in such a way as to interrupt trade and to confuse and irritate people
“I didn’t want to see barriers to the circulation of sausages and tractors with mud on their tyres and all the rest of it.
“And nor did I think that would be necessary and I think that’s why we put in the easements we have, because I think it’s sensible for there to be some balance in this and I think there’s a commonsensical way forward and that’s what we want to have.”
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Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has called on the Prime Minister to “replace” the protocol.
She said: “The Prime Minister must also stand up for Northern Ireland and replace the Protocol, which is damaging to the economic and constitutional position of Northern Ireland.
“Not a single unionist party in Northern Ireland supports this unworkable Protocol. Rather than protect the Belfast Agreement and its successor agreements, the Protocol has created societal division and economic harm.
“Whilst grace periods have been extended unilaterally, we need a permanent solution so business can plan and the integrity of the United Kingdom internal market can be restored.
“The inherent problems of the Protocol can only lead to further divergence and greater difficulties over time if not replaced.”
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