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Northern Ireland Protocol

Volume 681: debated on Wednesday 30 September 2020

What recent representations he has received on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol. (906635)

We continue to engage regularly with stakeholders from across Northern Ireland and beyond on the implementation of the protocol. We have heard loud and clear the need for further clarity and certainty to ensure that we are all ready for the end of the transition period. Some of the steps we have taken over the past few months are about delivering on that. We are committed to implementing the protocol, as our recent work on the sanitary and phytosanitary checks, for example, highlights. We have been working hard to ensure that this is done in a way that delivers in full on our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, including our commitment to deliver unfettered access to Northern Ireland businesses to the whole UK market.

I am not sure that the Secretary of State told me what representations he had received, which is what I actually asked. He conceded earlier that there would be some changes to the movement of goods as a result of the protocol. Can he tell us what that will look like in practice, because that is the clarity that businesses want?

I thought that I had actually answered the hon. Gentleman’s point. I am meeting businesses on a regular basis. The business engagement forum talks to businesses across a range of sectors in Northern Ireland. In fact, this very afternoon, I will be meeting more business representatives in Northern Ireland to talk about a range of issues—not only recovery from covid, but delivering on the protocol and what happens after the end of the implementation period. What these businesses have consistently wanted is certainty about unfettered access, which the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill delivers. We will continue to focus on seeking an agreement through the specialist Joint Committee and through the free trade agreement to deliver that. We have also been clear that there will be some checks—particularly, for example, SPS checks for live animals and agrifoods. We are delivering on that with the Northern Ireland Executive. These checks are building on the checks that have been in place since about the 19th century. We are determined to deliver in a way that works for people and businesses in all communities in Northern Ireland.

The businesses of Northern Ireland urgently need to see the detail on the border operating model down the Irish sea. This was promised previously by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by the end of July. It is not essential that we see the outcome of the Joint Committee, so can the Secretary of State clarify when that will be published, because it is so urgent?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point about businesses wanting as much certainty as they can get. We are still working through things with the specialist Joint Committee, but we are also engaging with those businesses. As I say, we are having regular weekly meetings with businesses—a range of businesses—across Northern Ireland to ensure that we deliver what works best for those businesses in Northern Ireland.