No 10 calls for extension to Brexit grace period following 'significant' border issues

Michael Gove speaking in the House of Commons.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove speaking in the House of Commons.

No 10 has said a three-month Brexit grace period for retailers in Northern Ireland should be extended in order to avoid further trade disruptions.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove admitted there had been "significant" problems at the Northern Ireland border ever since the UK left the single market on January 1.

Supermarkets in the region have been hit with food shortages and some British businesses have withdrawn from the area altogether, despite a three-month period being in place which allows exporters to bring goods into Northern Ireland under existing rules to ease the end of the transition period.

"The problem needs to be addressed both in the short and in the medium to long term," Gove said.

"In the short-term, there are a number of issues which I would not describe as teething problems, they are significant issues which bear on the lives of people in Northern Ireland which do need to be resolved.

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"We do need to make sure that grace periods are extended, we do need to make sure that supermarkets and other traders can continue, as they are at the moment, to be able to supply consumers with the goods that they need.

"There are a number of very specific issues and they extend, as I mentioned earlier, to everything from pet transport to the provision of plants and seeds to gardens in Northern Ireland.

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"The daily life of our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland does need to be protected and we must deal with all of these questions."

This comes as Brexit inspections have been suspended at ports in Belfast and Larne amid concerns over mounting loyalist anger about the Northern Ireland Protocol and the operation of an Irish Sea trade border.

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