BCC calls for negotiated settlement following latest Northern Ireland Protocol announcement

In a joint statement, Brandon Lewis MP and Lord Frost have set out the government’s intentions regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

They have advised that the current situation can’t continue as it currently stands citing “considerable – and ongoing – disruption to lives and livelihoods”.

Difficulties arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol after the UK left the EU on 1 January 2021 have been well documented. Problems have arisen when transporting food, medicines, pets and plants.

The UK considered using Article 16 of the Protocol, which would allow it to suspend parts of the Brexit deal, but decided that wasn’t the best course of action. Instead they are keen to negotiate with the EU to find new arrangements. The statement concluded that this would “require significant change to the Northern Ireland Protocol” and that “such change is necessary to deal with the situation we now face.”

Responding to the announcement of the new UK approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said: 

“Businesses in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland need durable, workable, negotiated solutions on compliance with the Protocol to ensure the continued two-way flow of goods East-West and North-South. The UK and EU governments need to work together to find solutions which work for business.

“A negotiated solution on customs, agri-food and e-commerce deliveries which deals with all of the red tape issues, is preferable to unilateral actions. An SPS agreement would deal with the most obtrusive border checks and controls, but customs and e-commerce issues also need to be dealt with by the autumn.

“Since January there has been continued uncertainty for businesses as various easements have been applied, followed by approaching cliff edges and then extensions of the easements. Firms need durable and consistent arrangements which provide clarity about trading conditions in the medium to long-term.

“Stronger engagement with business, particularly in Northern Ireland, must be central to the next stage of this process if viable solutions are to be found.”

To read the report detailing the UK’s recommended changes to the Protocol, visit gov.uk.