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Foreign Affairs | Retention of the Northern Ireland Protocol

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he continues to support the retention of the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to ensure that the interests of the island of Ireland are kept to the fore; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY
The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is the agreed EU-UK solution to mitigate the impact of Brexit across this island, to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process as well as protecting the integrity of the EU’s single market. It remains a key part of the Withdrawal Agreement, under which the UK left the EU, and paved the way for the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK.

As such, it continues to have Ireland’s full support, as well as the backing of all EU member states.

The Protocol is also supported by people and businesses in Northern Ireland. The Protocol gives Northern Ireland unique access to both the EU Single Market as well as the rest of the UK internal market, which combined comprise over half a billion people. The message I have consistently heard from Northern Ireland is that there is a real desire to make the most of the opportunities this presents. People and business want continued access to both the EU and GB markets, and predictability and stability. The UK Government’s unilateral actions undermine these objectives and create unwelcome uncertainty for Northern Ireland businesses.

The Government continues to undertake a coordinated and consistent approach in support of our Brexit priorities, which includes working with the Commission to find jointly agreed solutions to the challenges around the implementation of the Protocol.

I am in ongoing and intensive contact with my counterparts across the EU, including European Commission Vice-President Šefcovic, who I spoke with on 13 June. I am also in regular contact with the UK Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The EU’s commitment to Northern Ireland is undiminished.  There is strong opposition to the UK’s illegal unilateral action and full support for the Commission approach.

We know the operation of the Protocol can be improved. Ireland has stated this clearly, as has the Commission. That is why the EU has put forward practical solutions to the genuine concerns that have been raised in Northern Ireland. These are bespoke arrangements that further demonstrate the flexibility the EU is willing to show – including an openness to further change its own rules. 

The EU is willing to discuss these solutions with the British government. With political will, there are solutions to be found for the genuine issues of concern to people and business in Northern Ireland.  Finding these solutions will allow Northern Ireland to experience in full the positive effects the Protocol can have on trade, investment, growth and employment.

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