Northern Ireland Businesses: Access to UK Market

Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at on 22 March 2023.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

What steps the Government is taking to ensure that businesses in Northern Ireland have full access to the UK internal market.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The Windsor framework restores the free flow of trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The agreement guarantees unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the UK market on a permanent basis, and we have secured alternative arrangements that remove any proposed requirement to provide export declarations or equivalent information for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

Rother Valley has many amazing businesses, especially butchers such as G. Lomas in South Anston, Grays of Thurcroft, Stuart Saunders in Maltby and Lawns Farm in Morthen. I want everyone to try their products. What assurances can the Minister give me that everyone, no matter where they are in the United Kingdom, can taste Rother Valley sausage?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am delighted to confirm to my hon. Friend that residents of Northern Ireland will be able to enjoy the sausages produced by the great businesses in his constituency. The framework ends the ban on chilled meats, such as sausages and seasoned lamb joints, meaning that supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland will be able to stock the products that customers want and have bought for years.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons)

But the reality for my constituents, and businesses such as McCartney’s delicatessen in Moira, is that although they can bring in sausages from Yorkshire or any other part of the UK that are made to British standards, the sausages they make in Northern Ireland, part of the UK, have to be made to EU standards, because EU law applies to all manufactured goods in Northern Ireland. So why is it right to bring sausages from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and sell them in Northern Ireland, but it is not right to sell British sausages made in Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I understand the force and passion with which the right hon. Gentleman makes this point, but he knows that what we have done is reduce the extent of EU law in Northern Ireland to the absolute minimum consistent with keeping open an infrastructure-free border with the Republic of Ireland. I appreciate that this is a compromise that for many people will go too far, but I believe it is the right decision in these circumstances.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The reality is that Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market has not been fully restored by the Windsor framework, because EU law applies to all manufactured goods in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that of £77 billion-worth of goods manufactured in Northern Ireland £65 billion are sold in the UK. All of those goods must comply with EU law, regardless of where they are sold. Can we not get back to the proposals in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which mean that UK law applies unless a business wants to trade with the EU, in which case it must follow EU law?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

On the proposal for dual regulation, that was not what constituent businesses in Northern Ireland wanted. At some point, even unrelenting figures such as myself do need to compromise and give the voters what they want. I recognise that compromise is extremely difficult. We are in a position where we have an opportunity to move forward together. The right hon. Gentleman knows, as I do, that the manufacturing of most of the kinds of goods to which he is referring is done to international standards. So given all the circumstances, this is a reasonable compromise for Northern Ireland.