By Emma Bowden, PA
Brexit minister Lord Frost has urged the EU to take a “common sense, risk-based approach” to the Northern Ireland Protocol following a visit to the region.
He said the UK and the EU must find a solution “rapidly” after he and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met business and community representatives in the North during the two-day visit.
The protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.
The UK and EU are at loggerheads on efforts to reduce some of the bureaucracy the arrangements have created on the movement of goods from Great Britain into the North.
Lord Frost and Mr Lewis have made clear the EU needs to take a pragmatic and proportionate approach to the protocol if key elements are to be sustainable, according to Downing Street.
Following the visit, Lord Frost said in a statement: “It’s clear from my visit that the protocol is presenting significant challenges for many in Northern Ireland.
“Businesses have gone to extraordinary efforts to make the current requirements work, but it is hard to see that the way the protocol is currently operating can be sustainable for long.
“We’re committed to working through the issues with the EU urgently and in good faith.
“I hope they will take a common sense, risk-based approach that enables us to agree a pragmatic way forward that substantially eases the burdens on Northern Ireland.”
He said “solutions must be found rapidly” to protect the Good Friday peace agreement and to “minimise disruption” to the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost added: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, we will continue to consider all our options in meeting our overriding responsibility for sustaining the peace and prosperity of everyone in Northern Ireland.”
In his first official visit to the North, Lord Frost met business bosses from several sectors, including aerospace and manufacturing, to understand how they are adapting to the new arrangements.
He and Mr Lewis also visited Larne Port, where they met Border Force and Daera (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) officials, as well as EU Commission staff present under the protocol arrangements.
Mr Lewis added: “It is vital that the experiences, opportunities and challenges faced by people in Northern Ireland are understood and at the heart of our approach.
“I will continue these constructive and practical discussions in the weeks ahead, supporting Northern Ireland’s business needs and minimising the risk of disruptions at a crucial time.”