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Northern Ireland secretary urges MPs not to ‘overstate’ Brexit issues

Brandon Lewis in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

The Northern Ireland secretary has urged MPs not to “overstate” issues at the border which have led to supply issues in supermarkets. 

Brandon Lewis said that whilst there have been “challenges” to overcome in the first few weeks since the end of the Brexit transition period, “goods are moving” to and from the island.

Responding to the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Lewis said:  “(Sir Jeffrey) and I share a strong desire to ensure trade keeps flowing as smoothly as possible with unfettered access, as we promised, to Northern Ireland businesses – which we have delivered, but also to ensure that we’ve got that smooth flow for Great Britain into Northern Ireland as well.

“We’re working closely and I will continue to work closely with (Sir Jeffrey) and his colleagues in the Northern Ireland executive to do so.

“I think it is important that we don’t overstate some of the issues – that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues, I appreciate there have been challenges.

“The grace periods, though, are working well, goods are moving and we are working closely with traders as they adapt, particularly here in Great Britain.”

Lewis added that “as the prime minister rightly said last week, if we need to, we will not resist using Article 16 if it is appropriate and right to do so”.

Donaldson had warned ministers that the Northern Ireland protocol is continuing to cause “enormous difficulty” for consumers and businesses in the country.

His question echoed the views of business representatives who spoke of  the “significant problems” encountered on the trade border in the first few weeks of its operation.

Since January 1, all movements of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland require a customs declaration, with some products needing further certification too.

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