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Northern Ireland Protocol: Implementation

Volume 697: debated on Wednesday 16 June 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. (901170)

You are always here to help, Mr Speaker. Thank you.

We have taken extensive steps to implement the protocol, including providing £500 million for a range of support schemes, such as the trader support service and the movement assistance scheme. The trader support service alone has created 1.8 million declarations, supporting nearly 700,000 consignments since January. Despite these huge efforts, though, the protocol is presenting significant challenges for Northern Ireland, and we are seeing sustained disruption to trade, which is causing real impacts on livelihoods and disruption for citizens. So unless pragmatic, risk-based solutions can be found rapidly to a range of issues, cross-community confidence in the protocol will be eroded. We will therefore be continuing to work actively with the EU to find urgent solutions.

Sorry for the delay, Mr Speaker— I have only been here 20 years.

Is not the truth that the Prime Minister signed up for something in the protocol that he had no intention of honouring, in the way and practice he has followed throughout his life and got away with? The truth is, though, that he is not getting away with it now. Is not that the reality?

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a very good read of the protocol. The protocol that we signed up to is very clear that it will not disrupt the everyday lives of people in their communities, but it will respect the integral market of the United Kingdom and the Good Friday/Belfast agreement. Arguably, two—some would argue all three—of those things are currently in breach. We have a duty to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and we will do that.

Is it not a fact that the protocol has partitioned the United Kingdom? It has undermined business, damaged the political and social fabric of Northern Ireland, and our EU partners, in whose single market we share, do not even know that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. There are more checks now happening between GB and Northern Ireland than between Belarus and the EU and between Russia and the EU. This morning, Lord Frost has told us that there is no risk whatever for any of these goods entering the single market. Give us a timeline, Secretary of State: when will this be fixed?

The hon. Gentleman makes some very important and correct points. The protocol was always about dealing with goods that are at risk or are moving into the European Union. It is farcical to have a situation with products that are never moving into the European Union. Indeed, businesses, including well-known super- markets that do not even have stores in the Republic of Ireland, are having to go through the same sort of checks. We want to ensure that that is resolved. We absolutely understand that the EU’s core focus, as it has said, is on protecting its single market. For us, this is about respecting the single market, but our core focus is on protecting the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its strands, and ensuring that the residents and citizens of Northern Ireland can have access to the products that they should have as an integral, important part of the United Kingdom.