Yesterday The House of Lords Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Committee published a report calling on the UK and EU to urgently resolve their differences if NI and its people are not to become “permanent casualties” of Brexit.
The committee concluded that solutions have been hampered by a lack of clarity, transparency and readiness from the UK - and a lack of balance, understanding and flexibility from the EU.
Committee member Lord Empey noted that of all the expert witnesses they heard, one in particular stood out - Professor Pete Shirlow from Liverpool University.
“He provided a stunning set of statistics on the scale of the level of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and compared that to the total European Union economy,” Lord Empey said.
“Professor Shirlow pointed out that the total level of Great Britain to Northern Ireland trade was equivalent to just 0.0008% of the Gross Domestic Product of the European Union. Given that most of that trade had no possibility of going outside Northern Ireland, the potential risk of seepage into the EU Single Market may only be 20% of that figure!”
He added: “How has Westminster allowed this to happen? Why is the EU insisting on such disproportionate measures when there are alternatives available?”
The peer said that the UUP has been advocating alternative solutions.
“The question is, is there a willingness to set aside the political rhetoric of both the UK and the EU towards each other and genuinely seek a workable alternative?”
Also yesterday, DUP agriculture spokesperson Carla Lockhart said EU proposals to address concerns with the Protocol were only “tinkering around the edges [and] won’t cut it”.
She said the Protocol is causing many issues for local farmers, such as the availability of plant protection products, as well as hindering trade with NI’s largest market - GB.
The protocol is also causing increasing prices on many tools and farm equipment, she added.
Meanwhile SDLP MP Claire Hanna said yesterday that it was up to the UK government to show it is committed to real solutions.
“This report is clear that the optimum solution to post-Brexit friction is a veterinary agreement and that the failure to agree one would show that Northern Ireland is a low priority for the UK Government,” she said.
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