Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the Northern Ireland protocol and domestic legislation, Northern Ireland must continue to align with the European Union’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules. I am firmly opposed to the detrimental impact of these newly mandated rules on Northern Ireland businesses and consumers, and to the barriers that they place on the intra-UK movement of animals, goods and products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. As such, I believe that we must get to a position in which we minimise the impact of these checks and then remove them entirely
Discussions are ongoing between the UK Government and the EU Commission, via the UK-EU Joint Committee, with the aim of finding what I hope will be viable solutions to a range of issues related to the Northern Ireland protocol, including SPS checks. The establishment of a common SPS area, under the terms of a potential UK-EU veterinary agreement, could assist in facilitating trade in live animals and agri-food products, which would be helpful. However, as it would not address the entirety of the rules associated with the implementation of the protocol, it cannot properly address the issue.
I have engaged and will continue to engage with my ministerial colleagues to explore all available options that could help to remove the protocol and its impact on Northern Ireland-GB trade. Nevertheless, responsibility on the future alignment of the UK within the EU SPS rules and the negotiation of any UK-EU veterinary agreement rests solely with the UK Government.