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Checks on Goods: Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:39 am on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 10:39 am, 24th October 2019

The Prime Minister had one job—to sort the Northern Ireland backstop—and he has made a pig’s ear of it. He has taken the parts of the backstop that many of his own colleagues and many in the Unionist community in Northern Ireland found unacceptable and put them centre stage, and he claims that to be a success. I and my SNP colleagues welcome anything that gives Northern Ireland businesses free access to markets in the Republic of Ireland. What is not acceptable is that our businesses in Scotland are then put deliberately at a competitive disadvantage.

What is worse is that the Prime Minister has attempted to do this not only without the consent of Northern Ireland but, as is now clear, against the almost unanimous opposition of all the communities of Northern Ireland, without any prior consultation even with the businesses that will have to live with the consequences of what he has done. Can the Secretary of State confirm reports that he has said that even people in Northern Ireland selling stuff on eBay to Great Britain will have to complete customs declarations? Did he say that or was he wrongly quoted in the Irish press?

Can the Secretary of State explain why it is a good idea for Northern Ireland to have closer customs links and trade links with the Republic of Ireland, but it is a bad idea for Scotland, Wales and England to have the same links? Can he tell us what assessment he or anyone in government has made about the economic impact on businesses in other parts of the United Kingdom, which will be left at a disadvantage compared with those in Northern Ireland? Finally, given that, in the view of Unionist politicians on both sides of the House, the deal potentially undermines the long-term future of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, if the Prime Minister is prepared to play fast and loose with one of the founding principles of his party, why should anyone trust the reassurances he gives us on an NHS about which he quite clearly could not care less?