Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, has for the first time acknowledged the significant impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on businesses and consumers in the British-controlled territory.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show (June 27), Lewis admitted that work had to be done to fix the “big disruption” to businesses and consumers as a result of protocol’s impact.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is an integral part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement whose central aim is to maintain an open land border between British-controlled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so as to facilitate the free movement of goods.
The protocol is deeply unpopular with the unionist community as it has led to additional checks and delays on goods reaching the north of Ireland from Britain.
Despite acknowledging the disruption caused by the protocol, Lewis was careful not to oppose it in principle. Instead he suggested the problem lay with the implementation of the protocol, as opposed to its existence per se.
"The purest way the EU [European Union] want to see it, means we have seen disruption in Northern Ireland", Lewis said.
"It not only isn't what people foresaw, but goes against the protocol itself", he claimed.
Lewis concluded his interview by calling on the EU to demonstrate the “flexibility they keep talking about”.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the vice-president of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations, Maroš Šefčovič, intends to visit the Northern Ireland Assembly to address questions and concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In what has been described as “an unprecedented event” Šefčovič is set to appear before Stormont’s Committee for the Executive Office on Monday (June 28) with a view to de-escalating the crisis centered on the Northern Ireland Protocol.