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NI business groups call for an agreed solution to protocol without delay

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the House of Commons, London

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the House of Commons, London

PA

Angela McGowan

Angela McGowan

/

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the House of Commons, London

Business groups have called for a negotiated outcome in a row over the NI Protocol after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set out plans for UK legislation to reverse parts of the trading arrangement.

The UK-EU accord keeps Northern Ireland within the EU single market for goods in order to avoid a hard border on the post-Brexit island of Ireland.

But it has introduced checks on goods coming from Great Britain into NI, leading the DUP to refuse to form a power-sharing Executive following the Assembly elections unless it is drastically altered.

The party has also refused to nominate a Speaker to the Assembly, meaning that it cannot meet to do any business.

Ms Truss has set out her plan in the House of Commons to bring forward legislation within weeks, overwriting parts of the protocol.

The bill will propose separate “green” and “red” lanes for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with those destined to stay within the UK freed from EU-level checks.

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There will be no crossover between the channels, it is understood, with goods filtering through one or the other, depending on their intended destination. The legislation is due in the “coming weeks”, before the summer recess.

The Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group — a coalition of representatives from farming, retail, manufacturing and other groups — said it would take time to study the detail of the proposals.

A spokeswoman said: “While we are frustrated with the ongoing failure to resolve the outstanding issues, it is our shared view that anything other than a negotiated outcome is sub-optimal.

“Against the background of a cost-of-living and cost-of-doing-business crisis, it is incumbent on the EU and UK to recommence discussions without delay. It will require movement and compromise on both sides to secure the workable and lasting solutions we all need to see.”

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, also said politicians should be focused on helping people during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

“Firms are already reeling from the rising cost of doing business. The last thing they want is further uncertainty in trading arrangements amid global supply chain challenges.”

But she said she felt there was scope for an accord. “Now, more than ever, flexibility and compromise are needed from both sides to reach lasting trade solutions, securing peace and prosperity.

“With good political will, a landing zone can undoubtedly be found so that GB-NI trade flows are smoothed.”

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said agreement was the best way forward.

“Retail NI would encourage the UK Government and EU to continue the negotiations with a new sense of urgency. We look forward to further engagement with ministers this week in London on this statement,” he said.

“The local business community needs certainty and stability and not ongoing disputes on the protocol.

“The election of NI Assembly Speaker and establishment of the Executive needs to happen immediately. It is unacceptable that we have no effective government during this cost-of-living-and-doing-business crisis.”


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