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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 Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 10:39 am, 24th October 2019

I do take seriously the concerns raised by the right hon. Gentleman. Like the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and indeed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I stand ready to work with him to address those concerns. We are absolutely explicit in standing by the commitments of this Government, and there is a cross-party commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. The Northern Ireland protocol makes that explicit within the terms of the international agreement.

I absolutely accept the right hon. Gentleman’s point: the flow of trade from Northern Ireland to GB is three or four times more than the flow from Northern Ireland to Ireland. That is why the text makes it clear that there will be unfettered access. We need to work with him, where there are concerns, as reflected by the Chair of the Select Committee, to allay those concerns. Indeed, the text enables us to do so. Again, these are not issues that start on 1 November; these are issues that apply at the end of the application period. Even before we get into the actual articles, the preamble says:

“the application of the protocol should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities both in Ireland and Northern Ireland”.

So that is a commitment on both sides. We will work with him and with the Joint Committee on that. He well knows of our unique circumstances and that is why a unique solution is required, but I stand ready, as does the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, to work with him to address the concerns he raises.