Skip to main content

Transition Period: UK Trade

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2020

What steps his Department is taking to help ensure that Northern Ireland businesses have unfettered access to trade with the rest of the UK after the transition period. (909540)

Our commitment to unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods to the rest of the UK, as outlined in NDNA and the 2019 manifesto, remains unequivocal. We have brought forward draft regulations that establish the definition of qualifying Northern Ireland goods, ensuring no changes in how Northern Ireland businesses move goods directly to the rest of the UK from 1 January 2021. The UKIM Bill will ensure that qualifying Northern Ireland goods will continue to be placed on the whole UK market, even where the protocol applies different rules in Northern Ireland. Our priority for a longer-term qualifying goods regime is to confer the benefits of unfettered access specifically on Northern Ireland businesses. That is being developed in close co-operation with Northern Ireland businesses and the Executive and will come into force in 2021.

More than 100,000 freight units destined to and from Northern Ireland transit through Holyhead port each year. Unfettered access is key to not only the Northern Ireland economy but the Anglesey and Welsh economy. Can the Minister confirm that at no stage will this Government allow a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and that that is just as important as avoiding a tariffs and customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK?

My hon. Friend is right, and I know that her constituency of Ynys Môn plays a vital part in the links between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The protocol was designed to address a particular set of problems in a way that upholds the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. It is a practical solution to avoid a hard border with Ireland, while ensuring that the UK, including Northern Ireland, leaves the EU as a whole. The protocol is also clear that the UK must function as a single customs territory in practice, and that means fulfilling our commitment to delivering unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the rest of the Great Britain market as well.