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Customs Regulations

Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

What steps the Government have taken to ensure that customs regulations are the same in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The withdrawal agreement is clear that the UK Government are committed to protecting Northern Ireland’s position in the UK internal market, and we have guaranteed that Northern Irish businesses and farmers will continue to have unfettered access to the rest of the UK market. When the withdrawal agreement comes back, those clauses on unfettered access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will be in it. Businesses in Northern Ireland will benefit from tariff-free access to the UK single market while also benefiting from future trade deals negotiated with the UK.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

It is one of the defining characteristics of a nation state that goods moving into a territory are subject to regulations that are not there for goods that move within it. That is why the withdrawal agreement is a threat to the future of the Union that is the United Kingdom. It is why the former Prime Minister was absolutely right to discount completely the possibility of a customs border down the Irish sea. Why has the Conservative and Unionist party changed its mind?

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the key priority was to maintain no hard border on the island of Ireland—the thing that has ensured peace there for the last few decades. As I said, we will deliver on the commitments in the protocol on unfettered access for NI businesses into the GB market.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

If there are to be east-west arrangements, may I press my right hon. Friend to try to ensure that they are cost-neutral for Northern Irish business?

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I am having proactive discussions with the Treasury, and I agree that we need to have no costs and no barriers for Northern Ireland business.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

In the light of that answer, how does a Unionist Secretary of State justify export declarations on £18.5 billion-worth of trade flowing from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and what charge will be placed on that £18.5 billion-worth of trade?

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Through this agreement, the United Kingdom maintains total control of how that is applied. As my hon. Friend knows, we are working day in, day out to ensure that Northern Irish businesses can send their goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain with absolutely unfettered access.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

May I return to the question asked by my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson? Could we not consider the mutual recognition and mutual implementation proposals in much the same way as we administer the common travel area?

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Over the coming weeks, and then when we enter the implementation period, we must do everything we can to deliver on the commitment that I have just made to unfettered access for goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and ensure that trade can continue as it is now.