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No hard border down Irish Sea after Brexit, vows Brandon Lewis

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Pledge: Brandon Lewis MP

Pledge: Brandon Lewis MP

Pledge: Brandon Lewis MP

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has ruled out the prospect of a hard border in the Irish Sea post-Brexit.

Mr Lewis said the Government was determined to deliver on the arrangements in place, including the Good Friday Agreement.

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson had sought assurances from the minister that there would be no border or disruption to trade.

Mr Wilson said: "In a recent visit to Belfast, EU officials and Michel Barnier made it quite clear to the business community that, first of all, they expected a hard border in the Irish Sea and, secondly, they expected the Government to start implementing the things which need to be done to put that in place.

"Would he (Mr Lewis) give us an assurance that given that the Government has a different interpretation to the withdrawal agreement than the EU has, that no steps will be taken to put either a physical, administrative or electronic border in the Irish Sea which would disrupt trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?"

Mr Lewis responded: "(Mr Wilson) makes an important point and I'm very happy to be very, very clear about this. We are determined to deliver on the agreements that are not only within the (withdrawal) protocol but within the Good Friday Agreement, so we ensure that there is obviously no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"There will (also) be no border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and there will be no hard border in the Irish Sea."

Elsewhere yesterday, North Down Alliance MP Stephen Farry asked Boris Johnson whether a one-year extension could be sought for the UK's Brexit implementation process in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Farry said: "Defeating the coronavirus must be the top, indeed the only, priority for the foreseeable future.

"There's already huge anxiety across the UK and businesses are facing unprecedented challenge and uncertainty.

"So regardless of Leave or Remain, how quickly will the Prime Minister recognise the inevitable and seek at least a one-year extension to the Brexit implementation process?"

However, the Prime Minister responded: "Our priority is to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

"The other matter that he mentions has already, as he will know, been legislated for."

Belfast Telegraph