Brandon Lewis – Union strongest when all nations prosperous

PA

The Northern Ireland Secretary declared the Union in a strong position as he defended the Protocol agreed with the EU.

Brandon Lewis said this week’s deal recognised the challenges posed in keeping open the Irish border while allowing Belfast or Ballymena firms to compete on an equal footing with those from Scotland, Wales or London.

The Protocol will see Northern Ireland remain in the EU Single Market for goods, necessitating additional regulatory checks and certifications on animal-based products entering from Great Britain.

Scottish MPs have expressed concerns it would create a disadvantage for other nations.

Mr Lewis said: “The Union is at its strongest when all four nations are successful and acting together to deliver as part of the UK.

“It would be great, as we go forward with that strong customs union of the UK, seeing Bushmills competing with Scottish single malt (whisky), Scottish single malt competing with Penderyn in Wales, and all of them competing with London gin.

“I am pretty sure from my own experience that Bushmills would come out pretty well on that.”

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove confirmed to the Commons that the Protocol deal would enable the Government to withdraw specific elements of the Internal Markets Bill that would have overridden parts of the Protocol in breach of international law.

Mr Lewis toured the Wrightbus bus manufacturer near Ballymena in Co Antrim.

The plant has exported its vehicles around the world and built London’s red double decker bus when Boris Johnson was mayor.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said: “We have always said Northern Ireland has a unique set of circumstances.

“It recognises that it is a part of the UK with a land border with the EU.

“It is right we put the Protocol in place to ensure we are protecting Northern Ireland businesses, respecting the EU and making sure that we are not seeing (hard) borders.

“Therefore, we are all working to protect the Good Friday Agreement, as we always said we would.”

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement enshrined Northern Ireland’s peace structures and cooperation with the Republic of Ireland and there have been fears it could be threatened by Brexit.

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