Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
196. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had any recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with members of the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to the Ireland Northern Ireland Protocol concerning the need to resolve outstanding issues and ensure no disruption to trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18075/21]
The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is an international agreement concluded by the UK and the EU. It is the agreed and only solution to address the challenges caused by Brexit on the island of Ireland.
Our shared goal must be its full implementation. We welcome that the Specialised Committee met on Friday, 26 March. This was an important signal that the only sustainable and legal way forward on implementation is a joint one. The meeting, co-chaired by the EU and the UK, included officials from Ireland and 24 other EU Member States, as well as the Northern Ireland Executive. I hope that there can now be rapid progress towards returning to a cooperative approach that respects commitments made.
I have regular contact with representatives of the Northern Ireland Executive and political leaders. I also maintain ongoing contacts with British Government counterparts, including with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on these and other matters of common interest.
I am aware of the practical challenges which some businesses and people in Northern Ireland face arising from the UK’s decision to leave the Single Market and Customs Union. I, and officials in my Department, continue to engage closely with stakeholders in Northern Ireland, including with business and civil society. We are listening carefully to concerns they have and acting to mitigate the negative impacts of Brexit where possible.
We want the Protocol to work for Northern Ireland, and for the island as a whole, in as smooth a manner as possible. Ireland has consistently advocated a pragmatic approach to implementation within the existing framework of the Protocol. This is only possible in a spirit of cooperation, through the agreed mechanisms.
It is important, too, that Northern Ireland is able to benefit from the positive opportunities created by the Protocol with free access to both the EU market of 450 million people, and the UK internal market. This access is unique, vital for operation of all-island supply chains, and offers opportunities for trade, jobs and investment.
I welcome also Vice President Šefcovic's recent engagements with stakeholders in Northern Ireland and his commitment to regular contact, clearly demonstrating that the EU is listening to voices across Northern Ireland.