‘Intense work going on to find a better balance over NI Protocol’ says Tory minister

Problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol are “significant” and “growing”, the UK Government has said.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 1:13 pm
22/3/2021: A sign claiming the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement has been broken by the Northern Ireland protocol in Britain's Brexit deal has been erected beside a mural of masked members of the loyalist paramilitary group, the Red Hand Commandos in the Rathcoole estate, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim. The legend on the mural reads 'Don't play with peace.' PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis told MPs the UK has approached the arrangement in “good faith” but he expressed concerns over how it is operating.

The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Unionists in Northern Ireland have been vehemently opposed to its terms, which see additional checks on goods arriving to the region from the rest of the UK.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking at Cabinet Office questions, Mr Ellis said: “As we set out in our July command paper, the protocol is not meeting its core objectives as it stands. It is causing considerable disruption to lives and livelihoods.

“That is why we need to find a new balance through significant changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol and we are working intensively to that end.”

Labour MP Ruth Jones (Newport West) said the EU and the US have “expressed serious concerns and reservations about the current practical arrangements” and said of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement with the EU: “The deal may have been ‘oven-ready’, but did someone forget to turn the gas on?”

Mr Ellis replied: “We have tried to operate the protocol in good faith, but the problems are significant and the problems are growing.

“The Northern Ireland Executive noted that from January to March, about 20% of all of the European Union’s checks were being conducted in respect of Northern Ireland, even though Northern Ireland’s population is just 0.5% of the EU as a whole.

“It’s unacceptable. And I think those are the sort of problems about which she ought to focus.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week warned that the post-Brexit issues with Northern Ireland “can’t go on forever”.

Brexit minister Lord Frost has also argued that the threshold of triggering Article 16 of the protocol, which would effectively tear up parts of the deal he negotiated, has been met.

More from the News Letter:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptionsnow to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor