Foreign Secretary in Belfast as progress is made on NI Protocol
Today (Wednesday 11 January) the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, and Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, will meet Northern Ireland’s party leaders in Belfast.
They will discuss the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on the ground, as well as the Government’s desire to see an end to the political stalemate in Stormont.
The Ministers will also meet business groups to understand the real-world impact the Protocol is having on businesses and the public around trade disruption. These discussions will help inform ongoing talks between the UK government and the EU.
This visit will include a tour of Saintfield Garden Centre and Nursery, to hear about the specific difficulties caused by the Protocol, such as restrictions on the movement of plants and seeds. This includes how goods that have been relied on for generations in Northern Ireland, like seed potatoes and other native British plants and trees, are currently unable to enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
Speaking at Erskine House James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, said:
"My preference is for a negotiated solution, but the UK’s priority is protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and preserving political stability in Northern Ireland.
"I am listening to the concerns of people and businesses in Northern Ireland and am keenly aware that the current situation isn’t working. We need to address those issues with the Protocol that risk and undermine the place of NI in the UK."
Chris Heaton-Harris, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, commented:
"A solution to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol is clearly desired by all across business and in government. As the Foreign Secretary has said, the government is committed to resolving these problems as soon as possible.
"I am firmly of the belief too that what people in Northern Ireland want most is to see their elected politicians back at work. Accountable political leadership is fundamental to secure a sustainable future for all in NI."
The Foreign Secretary is leading discussions between the UK and EU to resolve the issues caused by the Protocol and agree a negotiated solution.
This visit follows his meeting with Vice President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, on Monday 9 January, where they reached an agreement on the way forward regarding the EU’s access to UK IT systems that provide live information about what goods are moving across from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The agreement is an important prerequisite for building trust and provides a basis for further discussions with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The UK Government said it is committed to finding a solution to the Protocol that protects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and supports political stability in Northern Ireland.