Windsor Framework

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

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

What recent discussions he has had with businesses in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the Windsor framework.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

What recent discussions he has had with businesses in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the Windsor framework.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Yesterday was the 49th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings that killed 21 people and injured 182—the deadliest act of terrorism in England during the troubles. At this juncture, we should remember those who lost their lives, and in this 25th year of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement it is important to remind ourselves of the progress that has been made since 1998.

I recently attended a roundtable with the Northern Ireland Institute of Directors, and I meet regularly with Northern Ireland businesses to discuss a whole range of issues, including the Windsor framework. Officials across the UK Government are also in regular contact with businesses about implementation of the framework. We have continued the ongoing implementation of the Windsor framework, rolling out the first phase of the green lane on 1 October, cutting red tape and lifting bans on everyday products.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to businesses in Northern Ireland. Could he tell the House how many of them are now registered with the UK internal market scheme?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I am happy to confirm that more than 7,000 businesses have now registered with the UK internal market scheme, of which over 3,000 are businesses that did not benefit from the previous schemes. All of those businesses can now move their goods free from any costly issues and tariffs. In the future, businesses registered under the scheme will also be able to avoid completing customs declarations as we continue implementation of the Windsor framework.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

Does the Secretary of State accept that for as long as there are customs declarations, physical searches and ID checks for businesses moving goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, even in the green lane, the Prime Minister’s view that there is no

“sense of border in the Irish sea” will ring hollow?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, I do not accept that. When we agreed to the Windsor framework, we committed to a certain number of EU laws being maintained in Northern Ireland, which has been of economic benefit to Northern Ireland even up to this point and will continue to be in future. Pretty much everybody involved in movements across the Irish sea—the businesses involved, including the new businesses using them—believe that they are simple and very straightforward.

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

Further to that excellent question from Jonathan Gullis, our objective is to ensure that Northern Ireland’s place in our biggest market, the United Kingdom, is restored and protected in law. Will the Secretary of State work with us to ensure that, where goods are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, they are not subject to EU customs processes that are neither necessary nor fair and right? Save for reasons of animal health and the risk of smuggling, there should not be checks on those goods.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and I very much enjoy working with him on a regular basis to try to achieve the aims he has set out. We have so far gone a long way in this space with the Windsor framework, but I look forward to continued engagement with him in the next few days, because we do need to find a resolution to these issues that also means we can re-form Stormont and deal with the other domestic issues in Northern Ireland.

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

I thank the Secretary of State for the additional support that has been provided to businesses affected by flooding in Northern Ireland. Will he work with us to ensure that, whatever additional support is required for the recovery of towns such as Downpatrick, Newry and Portadown is delivered by Northern Ireland Departments working together with the Northern Ireland Office?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I would like to thank the local councils and the Northern Ireland civil service for the work they have done on this so far. The flooding, which I know we will talk about a bit later, was extraordinary and so many people were affected who did not expect to be. Some £15 million has been assigned for that at this point in time, but the right hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that the consequences of the floods will have ramifications for months and years to come.