Michael Gove claims Northern Ireland is 'unique' when challenged why Scotland and Wales can't enjoy access to EU markets

Michael Gove is asked about Brexit developments

Michael Gove is asked about Brexit developments - Credit: Sky News

Michael Gove has been challenged to explain why it is a good thing that Northern Ireland is given the "best of both worlds" with access to the benefits of the UK and European Union, but that it should not apply to England, Scotland or Wales.

Gove told reporters that the agreement with the EU will ensure "unfettered access for goods that come from NI to the UK".

He added: "That means that businesses in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds; access to the European single market, because there's no infrastructure on the Island of Ireland, and at the same time unfettered access to the rest of the UK market."

But questioned why the rest of the UK should not be allowed to enjoy the same benefits, he said: "Northern Ireland is in a unique situation.

"The only land border that the UK has with the European Union is on the Island of Ireland.

"Over the course of the last 22 years we've seen real gains made through the peace process and it was the aim of all the political parties in Northern Ireland and the first minister and deputy first minster from Unionist and Republican traditions, to ensure that we could safeguard the peace process but also make sure that Northern Ireland's businesses could benefit from the strength of the UK internal market."

The comments did not impress viewers across other parts of the UK, with Peter Hutchinson tweeting: "Message to Scotland : you're not unique! This is going to play well, isn't it?"

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David Tarafder asked: "If the 'best of both worlds' is UK plus EU, what's the use of Brexit?"

A third wrote: "Michael Gove says Northern Ireland now have 'the best of both worlds' as they have unfettered access to the EU Single Market and the UK Single Market. That's what we all had - but we've swapped it for a blue passport and a bucketful of fish."

Michael Anstey suggested the proposals could contradict the Good Friday Agreement. He wrote: "Are you treating NI differently to rest the rest of the UK? Isn’t that contrary to the Belfast agreement? Or are NI now subject to EU rules in order to achieve this?"

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