A DUP Minister has warned that "Northern Ireland plc" could be badly damaged by the Northern Ireland protocol in the UK-EU Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The North's Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots told the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday that a number of British businesses are considering withdrawing from Northern Ireland because of the cost of applying the protocol.
Mr Poots said that "thousands of pounds and in some instances tens of thousands of pounds" could be added to the cost of bringing in lorryloads of goods to stores such as Iceland, Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco.
This was due to the cost of export health certificates that would apply in order to keep Northern Ireland in line with EU rules under the terms of the protocol.
“The consequence of it is that we will likely lose some of those businesses from Northern Ireland and consequential jobs lost, the consequential loss of, potentially, goods that are on the shelves that people want to buy,” added the Minister.
“There are a lot of businesses in GB [Great Britain] currently talking about pulling out of the Northern Ireland market because of the protocol,” said Mr Poots.
“The protocol as it stands is extremely damaging, but it can be remedied should the EU co-operate with us in remedying it,” he said.
“We need the European Union to actually work with the people of Northern Ireland in ensuring that Northern Ireland plc is not damaged, that jobs are not damaged, that consumers are not damaged,” added Mr Poots.
Mr Poots’s comments came as Britain missed a deadline set by the EU for replying to its legal notice regarding concerns about British prime minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen sent the UK a "letter of formal notification" last month after British ministers rejected a demand to scrap clauses from the Bill that override key elements of the withdrawal agreement that relate to Northern Ireland. Additional reporting: PA