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Let us get this into perspective: Northern Ireland to Great Britain trade is worth £14 billion a year; trade from Northern Ireland to the European Union, including the Irish Republic, is £4.8 billion; and those figures are replicated the other way. Our trade with the rest of the UK is absolutely the most important by a long way. We need to avoid checks, and there will be checks, because we are going to have export declarations for trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. The Secretary of State now calls them “administrative processes”, but they are exit declarations that have to be checked. From Great Britain to Northern Ireland, there will be customs declarations, physical checks, tariffs on goods going to the European Union and entry summary declarations.
The Government’s own impact assessment states that there is the potential of
“reduced trade, business investment and consumer spending” in Northern Ireland, and that small businesses will be hit disproportionately. Let us have a bit of clarity and honesty in this House! The fact of the matter is that this will adversely affect the most important trade that we have in Northern Ireland—that is the point we have always made. No checks along the Irish land border, yes, but we cannot then have those checks in the Irish sea.
Please will the Secretary of State take seriously the point that the shadow Secretary of State made and the Chief Constable made today? You are in danger of causing real problems with the Belfast agreement, the St Andrews agreement, and the political institutions and political stability in Northern Ireland by what you are doing to the Unionist community. Please wake up and realise what is happening here. We need to get our heads together and look at a way forward that can solve this problem. Don’t plough ahead regardless, I urge you.