Trade from North to Great Britain will be ‘99.9%’ unfettered, says Gove

No pushback from EU on British government interpretation of protocol, minister tells MPs

Minister for the cabinet office Michael Gove was giving evidence to the House of Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU, alongside Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost: Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Minister for the cabinet office Michael Gove was giving evidence to the House of Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU, alongside Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost: Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

Michael Gove has told MPs that the European Commission has not offered any pushback against Britain’s interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol’s promise of “unfettered access” for goods from the North to Great Britain. In a document outlining its approach to implementing the protocol, the British government said that such goods would not require an export declaration.

“Our interpretation in the command paper is that there is no requirement for that and there hasn’t been any pushback against that. There is a tiny, tiny set of exceptions . . . but for 99.9 per cent recurring of trade from Northern Ireland to GB, no paperwork and no declarations should be required,” the minister for the cabinet office said.

Mr Gove was giving evidence to the House of Commons committee on the future relationship with the EU, alongside Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost. He confirmed that goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to a “light-touch electronic process” and that British officials would process customs declarations.

“Of course we’ll make sure that the EU is fully sighted on how we’re operating that process. The overwhelming majority of trade from GB to NI stays in NI at the moment. But of course if there was a good that went from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and then into the Republic, then a tariff would be payable when it went into the Republic and we are of course committed to paying or remitting the cost of that tariff for the company affected,” he said.

“We’ve outlined a way in which we think we can protect the EU single market and also the UK’s internal market in a way that has the least possible bureaucratic and other pressure on Northern Ireland’s businesses and people.”

Meanwhile, the North’s agriculture minister, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, has said Brexit could bring opportunities for Northern Ireland. 

Opposed

The DUP is opposed to the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which it says undermines the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK by putting a border in the Irish Sea.  

“We would have the advantage of actually having access to the single market and to the UK market, and make Northern Ireland an attractive place for inward investment,” Mr Poots told BBC Radio Ulster.   

By ensuring there were no checks on goods from Great Britain which ended their journey in Northern Ireland, only about 1 per cent of commercial vehicles would need checked, “and in that case that wouldn’t be particularly damaging to the economy,” Mr Poots said.  

“So we need to be very sure that we can actually maximise that advantage, whilst at the other side minimising the disadvantage.”

The infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon of the SDLP, said the Northern Executive should ask the British government for an extension to the Brexit deadline.