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Brexit to go on amid coronavirus battle: Hancock


Health Secretary Matt Hancock at Downing Street yesterday

Health Secretary Matt Hancock at Downing Street yesterday

10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty

Health Secretary Matt Hancock at Downing Street yesterday

A senior UK Government minister on Friday reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, despite concerns over potential impacts on business in Northern Ireland.

At Friday's Downing St press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked about Covid-19 lockdown impacts on business here, as well as fears of EU customs posts being erected at NI ports.

Responding to a question from The Irish News, Mr Hancock said: "The Prime Minister spoke to the Taoiseach this afternoon, very positive discussion, and we fully intend to meet all the commitments that we made in terms of delivering on the result of the referendum." Earlier this week, Stormont junior minister Declan Kearney said the Government told NI ministers it will "urgently put in place detailed plans with the Executive, which does include physical posts at ports of entry".

Northern Ireland is set to continue to follow EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods after Brexit, while the rest of the UK will stop following these rules at the end of 2020.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar had discussed the response to coronavirus as well as progress in the current UK-EU negotiations.

In the Downing St press conference, Minister Hancock also announced increased funding for England in the fight against Covid-19. The move means additional funding for Northern Ireland, and was welcomed by NI Health Minister Robin Swann.

"The allocation is very timely as I am bringing a paper to the Executive seeking investment in the care home workforce," Minister Swann said.

"Care home measures set out in England today - such as providing wellbeing support for staff, seeking to limit staff movement between homes, and increasing clinical support to care homes - reflect steps already taken here in NI."

Meanwhile, the Irish Government has denied suggestions by NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis that it is reviewing a requirement for British travellers to quarantine for 14 days.

The Irish Times reported an Irish Government spokesman stating that the restrictions were not under review ­- and the 14-day self-isolation is required.

Ireland's Minister for State for European Affairs Helen McEntee also told RTE: "I can categorically say that is not the case. I'm not sure where that has come from."

Mr Lewis also played down reports Britain had agreed with the EU to install inspection posts at NI ports to check goods moving in from Britain.

Belfast Telegraph