Brexit minister admits Northern Ireland protocol having 'damaging impact'

The Brexit minister has admitted the Northern Ireland protocol is having a “damaging impact” ahead of a meeting with his counterpart, commissioner Maroš Šefčovič.

Lord Frost will co-chair a meeting of the Partnership Council and Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee today – a key moment as the EU warned “patience is wearing thin” with the UK Government.

The meeting will cover 30 issues, including VAT on used cars, pet travel and the movement of food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

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Speaking ahead of the meeting, Lord Frost warned a solution was in the interests of both sides.

Lord Frost is due to meet European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday.

He said: “First among these challenges is the damaging impact the protocol is having on the ground in Northern Ireland.

"Businesses in Great Britain are choosing not to sell their goods into Northern Ireland because of burdensome paperwork, medicine manufacturers are threatening to cut vital supplies, and chilled meats from British farmers destined for the Northern Ireland market are at risk of being banned entirely.

“When I meet Maroš Šefčovič later today, my message will be clear – time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the protocol work.

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“Our overriding shared priority must be to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the peace process. I look to the EU to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities.

“Further threats of legal action and trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product. Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.

“What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us. This work is important. And it is ever more urgent.

“It is only by making substantial progress across the whole range of difficulties that we can show people in Northern Ireland that the protocol can work in a pragmatic, proportionate and sustainable way – as was always intended.”

Earlier Mr Šefčovič insisted Brussels would "not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations".

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