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Brandon Lewis' BBC Question Time remark on NI's EU opportunities has Twitter in a spin


Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)


Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

BBC's Question Time came to Northern Ireland and Brandon Lewis's comments on the opportunities NI has with the current Brexit arrangements got the Twitterati talking.

Lewis was among the panel which included the first and deputy First Minister, Labour shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh and politics professor Anand Menon.

Coronavirus and Brexit - and the food shortages in Northern Ireland - dominated.

The first question was as to if those shortages were "teething problems" or deeper issues of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Northern Ireland is continuing to follow some of the EU’s rules to prevent the establishment of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Brandon Lewis has denied there is an issue relating to Brexit and said the problems with getting food to Northern Ireland from GB was down to coronavirus and a lag in issues of freight crossing the border in the south of England when France shut its border to the UK after a mutant strain of the virus was detected.

Mr Lewis said moving goods from GB to NI was tariff free but there would need to be checks on items such as food stuffs.

He said the protocol offered Northern Ireland - as part of the UK - "a unique competitive advantage" not seen around the world.

"In the sense of Northern Ireland has the ability to trade in and as part of the UK as well as through the single market with the EU.

"If you are a business who deals with the UK and the EU, the place to invest and grow your business is in Northern Ireland."

He denied the protocol pushed Northern Ireland more toward to Dublin and the EU than London saying there remained "unfettered access between NI and the UK".

"That gives NI a competitive opportunity and a huge opportunity. Once we come out of Covid."

BBC broadcaster Andrea Catherwood, who is from Northern Ireland, was one of the many thousands to take to Twitter to comment on it.

"Without any apparent irony a Government minister spells out the competitive advantage of being in the EU single market. You couldn’t make it up," she tweeted.

Some vented frustration the show was screened in Northern Ireland 40 minutes after it had gone out to the rest of the regions.

This was because BBC NI chose to screen its local current affairs programme The View.

One Twitter user said he was part of the virtual audience and had prepared and taken part for over three-and-a-half hours, only for his question to be cut for time.

Belfast Telegraph political editor Suzanne Breen described it as "mind-numbingly dumb".

"I'm a politics journalist in NI, and I'm bored silly with this," she tweeted. "Heaven help the poor audience in Britain."

Belfast Telegraph