British-Irish Council: Summit

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 30th November 2021.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 10:45 am, 30th November 2021

I thank the Member for the eloquent speech, although I am not sure where the question was. Nonetheless, on the protocol issues, a very significant element of why Northern Ireland is doing well is our very prosperous food industry. Over the pandemic, people have voted with their feet on from where they acquire their food, saying, "We want local food". That is why beef prices have risen from around £3·30 a kilo to £4 a kilo over the period. People recognise the quality and the provenance of locally produced goods, so the same applies to milk and many other products. Having a strong and very sophisticated agri-food economy therefore put us in a better place when it came to recovering from COVID.

I have always indicated that there was an advantage from the protocol but that that advantage was outweighed by the disadvantages. I said that it was like scoring a super goal in a football match but then letting in six goals. We need to ensure that we can remove the six goals against us so that we can import our trees, our plants, our seed potatoes and the beef that goes on for further processing: I could go on. We need to address so many aspects of the protocol that are damaging to the economy.