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Northern Ireland Protocol

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2021

What estimate he has made of the costs incurred by businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol. (901590)

Top of the morning to you, Mr Speaker.

The protocol is explicit in its respect for the UK’s territorial integrity, and the Government are committed to delivering it with as little impact on businesses and day-to-day lives as possible. The Government have set up the free-to-use trader support service to support businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland at a cost of £270 million and have made full use of provisions within the protocol to ensure that no tariffs are charged on internal UK trade.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Does the Minister accept that the protocol actually discriminates against British businesses trading between GB and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and GB? It undermines trade, damages consumer opportunities and rights, and increases costs to both consumers and businesses on both sides of the channel. What action will the Government take, and indeed encourage others to take, to save British businesses and the economy from this economic discrimination? How long will businesses have to wait for a solution and what compensation has the Treasury calculated to cover the loss in trade, which, at present, is running at hundreds of millions of pounds?

I thank the hon. Member for his question. Of course, this follows a wide concern that he has put in front of the House on many previous occasions. I do not accept the characterisation that he has given of the situation in Northern Ireland, but I absolutely agree with him that the Government need to continue to press for the Northern Ireland protocol to be implemented in a proportionate and pragmatic way. That is an important goal of the Government. He talks about the schemes in place. Let me remind him that, so far, the trader support service has processed something like, I think, 700,000 consignments, 59,000 traders have been registered, there is the Brexit support fund and there is the new movement assistance scheme, as he will know, for food and agriculture trade. We retain a focus on making those systems, rules and support work as effectively and as widely as possible.[Official Report, 28 June 2021, Vol. 698, c. 2MC.]