There will be some checks on agri-food goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after Brexit, the Northern Ireland Secretary has confirmed.
Brandon Lewis said such checks had been in place “since about the 19th century” and the Government would work to “deliver in a way that works for people and businesses, and all communities, in Northern Ireland”.
During Northern Ireland questions, he told the Commons: “We have also been clear there will be some checks, particularly on SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) – live animal and agri-foods, as an example.
“We are delivering on that with the Northern Ireland Executive and these are checks that are building on checks that have been in place since about the 19th century.
“But we are determined to deliver in a way that works for people and businesses, and all communities, in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Lewis also confirmed a “slimmed-down Finance Bill” will be brought forward “later this year” to deliver commitments made on trade by the Government.
Responding to the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey M Donaldson (Lagan Valley), he said: “At the heart of our approach is our determination to ensure that trade does flow freely to ensure that businesses trading in and with Northern Ireland can continue to trade properly.
“We will make full use of the provisions in the Protocol to deliver on that and we will continue to discuss these with the EU.
“As I say, there is still issues that we are discussing as a part of a free trade agreement, as well as through the specialist joint committee, but we will be ensuring that all of the commitments that both myself, the Prime Minister and other colleagues have made here at the despatch box will be delivered through a slimmed-down Finance Bill later this year.”
Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh called on both the EU and UK to “act in Northern Ireland’s interests and deliver the certainty businesses are crying out for”.
She said: “Not a single clause in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill changes the facts that new requirements on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland will be coming into force in 13 weeks’ time.
“Why are a coalition of business groups still waiting for answers on 60 of the 67 basic questions they put to the secretary of state in June on how the Protocol will work? Why is there still no border operating model?
“Why is it the necessary infrastructure described by the permanent secretary for the environment and agriculture has been described as undeliverable? Isn’t it time for both the EU and UK to act in Northern Ireland’s interests and deliver the certainty businesses are crying out for?”
Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker replied: “I think when she’s making the criticism she does, she appears to be criticising the Protocol which her front bench have been arguing we can’t interfere with.
“I actually think it is essential we deliver on the Protocol, we deliver that certainty for businesses and the steps we’ve taken in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill help us to do so and I’m not going to take lectures on upholding the integrity of our Union from a party that refuses to rule out backing a second divisive independence referendum in Scotland.”