Northern Ireland Protocol 'may decide next leader' says Coulter
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The Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group has urged the UK Government and the EU to “redouble their efforts” to find a compromise on the frictions caused by the new trading relationship. It has called on Brussels to show “more ambition” in talks and warned businesses risk suffering further if Britain is forced to take unilateral action to resolve the dispute.
Unionists believe the UK’s internal market is undermined by Brussels’ insistence on strict bureaucratic customs checks on all goods crossing the Irish Sea.
The Government wants to replace the Protocol with a new system that would create green and red channels that would differentiate between GB goods destined for use in Northern Ireland and shipments bound for onward transportation across the Irish border.
Goods arriving through the green channel would be freed of red tape, while the red channel would retain the checks and inspections required by the protocol.
The plan also envisages the introduction of the dual regulatory system that would allow businesses selling in Northern Ireland to choose whether they comply with EU standards, UK standards or both.
Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group has warned the UK solution would cause fresh issues and instead the two international partners must return to the negotiating table.
“With inflation rising to a 40-year high, the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group call on the EU and the UK to redouble their efforts to resolve their differences on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol and find an agreement based on compromise,” the group said in a statement.
“For too long this issue has been dominated by inflexibility and intransigence but Northern Ireland is now facing into the most difficult of winters. It is our view that the scale of the current economic challenge is such that it demands a swift resolution to the impasse.
“Our communities are amongst the least well-placed to manage the cost-of-living crisis, with households seeing the largest fall in discretionary spend of any UK region this year.
“As a priority, any agreed outcome must protect GB-NI consumer-facing supply chains, and tackle the disproportionate burden placed on goods that are not at any material risk of entering the EU single market.
“This will require much more ambition than we have seen to date from the EU on the issues of SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) and parcels in particular.
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“We have also been clear with the UK government that if it proceeds unilaterally with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, particularly with the creation of an all-encompassing dual regulatory regime, it will create myriad reputational, legal and commercial risks for many of our businesses.
“Northern Ireland has been a top-performing region in exporting goods since EU Exit, but that is now being put at risk.
“The need for an urgent resolution is readily apparent, but it will become much more acute as we move through the second half of this year.
“It remains our firm belief that through agreement, with ambition, flexibility and compromise from both sides, a balance between upholding much-needed access to the GB market and protecting the EU single market is achievable.
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“The EU and the UK, acting together, have a responsibility to deliver this.”
Intense negotiations took place between Westminster and Brussels between October 2021 and February 2022 to no avail.
The EU effectively brought talks to a halt with its refusal to renegotiate the Protocol and its insistence that the deal must be implemented in full.
A new Bill is passing through Parliament that will give the ministers the power to unilateral suspend the implementation for the agreement with Brussels in order to protect the integrity of the UK.
Both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have vowed to carry on implementing the Protocol Bill if appointed as the next Prime Minister.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Our overriding priority continues to be the protection of peace and stability in Northern Ireland.”
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