A leading DUP Brexiteer has claimed that Boris Johnson has “screwed over” Northern Ireland with Brexit.
MP Ian Paisley criticised the prime minister’s comment that empty supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland are down to “teething problems”.
Paisley told MPs: “What did we do? What did we do to members on those benches over there to be screwed over by this protocol?
“Ask your hearts, every single one, what did we do? Because what has happened to this protocol it has ruined trade in Northern Ireland and it is an insult to our intelligence to say it is a teething problem. Tell that to my constituents.”
He added: “This grace period needs to be extended by at least 12 months.”
It comes as a former Northern Ireland secretary called for supermarkets to be given a grace period throughout 2021 to adapt to post-Brexit arrangements.
Conservative MP Julian Smith said the UK and EU need to work together to resolve issues connected to the Northern Ireland Protocol, adding to Michael Gove: “Will he use his negotiating talents, the relationships he built up last year in completing the Protocol to make 2021 a grace period for supermarkets in Northern Ireland?
“I think the EU will be up for that deal, let’s make it happen.”
Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove, in his reply, said the Protocol is a joint responsibility and talks would be held.
Gove also told MPs there is “not so much an overzealous” application of the rules by bodies, such as the Northern Ireland Executive, but noted: “There is, in the way in which some of the rules are applied, a rigidity which we do need to address and that’s why, for example, on VAT, on steel imports and on groupage we’re taking the action that we are.”
British Retail Consortium director Andrew Opie said the problems which had resulted in a shortage of some food products following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 had largely been overcome.
But giving evidence to the Commons Brexit Committee, he said there could be fresh difficulties in April when a series of exemptions in the trade deal on goods being moved to Northern Ireland from Great Britain comes to an end.
“If we do not find a workable solution for retailers in the next couple of months we do face significant disruption in Northern Ireland,” he said.