Northern Ireland Protocol: Implementation Proposals

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 12:45 pm, 18th November 2020

My Secretary of State is on the way to Northern Ireland this afternoon, and has asked me to respond to this question on his behalf. We continue our work to implement the protocol in a pragmatic and proportionate way that minimises the disruption to people’s day-to-day lives and preserves the gains of the 22 years since the Belfast/Good Friday agreement was signed. We are helping traders to prepare for the end of the transition period. We published business guidance in August, and are updating it all the time as arrangements are finalised. We have established the trader support scheme, backed by £200 million of Government funding. More than 7,000 businesses have signed up, and hundreds more are joining them every day. We are considering further support measures for agrifood traders, with further details to be announced shortly.

We are getting on with the work that we need to do so that our systems and facilities are ready. We are putting in place the IT systems that are needed to process goods movements, supported by £155 million, which we announced in August. We are working with the Northern Ireland Executive on the delivery of expanded points of entry for agrifood, with the contract now awarded and work under way on arrangements on day one and thereafter.

We are getting on with putting the legislative framework in place for manufactured goods and food safety among many other issues, and our programme is well on track to be delivered in full by the end of the year. We are delivering on our unequivocal commitment to unfettered access. We have provided for robust protections in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill for mutual recognition and a prohibition on new checks and controls. We will re-table those clauses when the Bill returns to the House.

We laid a draft statutory instrument in Parliament, which was approved on 10 November by this House, and is scheduled for debate in the other place on 30 November. That will ensure that on 1 January Northern Ireland businesses can continue to move their goods as they do now. We are working with the Executive to introduce a longer-lasting second phase of that system, to focus its benefits on Northern Ireland businesses, to be introduced in the course of 2021.

We are working intensively and in good faith through the Joint Committee to pursue the solutions that we need to support our approach. We have already agreed a phased approach for medicines rules in Northern Ireland, ensuring that those critical goods can continue to flow. We have agreed an approach to scoping the application of the electricity directive in respect of Northern Ireland’s single electricity market that will ensure that the single electricity market continues to deliver for Northern Ireland.

We are working to ensure that UK internal freight is not subject to tariffs, and to remove export declarations from Northern Ireland to GB trade. We continue to pursue specific solutions for supermarket trade, noting the huge social and economic importance of avoiding disruption. That essential work will continue at pace in the coming days but, of course, I cannot give a running commentary on discussions with the European Union.