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Michelle O’Neill attends EU/British Government Brexit meeting and calls for rigorous implementation of the Irish Protocol

19 October, 2020 - by Michelle O'Neill MLA

The fourth meeting of the EU/British Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement met this morning in London, with Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster representing the Executive as Joint Heads of Government, and participating virtually. The meeting was co-chaired by Michael Gove MP and the European Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

Speaking after the meeting Michelle O’Neill said, “I welcome the opportunity to represent the citizens and businesses in the North at these important meetings.

“Time is undoubtedly short to secure a future partnership between the EU and British Government, but a fair deal, not at any cost, is still possible and I hope that negotiators are successful in their efforts over the coming days and weeks ahead.

“It is my determination to ensure that the Irish Protocol is rigorously implemented by the end of this year. It is specifically designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the achievements of the peace process, and prevent a return of the border on the island of Ireland.  It is critical to recognising our special status and allowing growth and prosperity to continue.

“The Executive has legal obligations to fulfil also towards implementing the Protocol, and I reported that the Agriculture Minister has now awarded the contracts for sanitary and phytosanitary checks and controls at our ports of entry, and recruited additional veterinary officers for the task also.

“As regards East-West trade our concern is to ensure that there is minimum disruption to trade, no price hikes for consumers and that through our special status, that businesses have access to both the EU single market for goods and the British market.

“I made the case that where there is concern at this moment on the registration of northern Irish traders for Value Added Tax purposes, which enables our businesses to trade in both markets.

“Without being registered to get their own unique designator as an EU VAT registration number they cannot avail of the service put in place around the free Trader Support Service, putting them at a disadvantage, negating the value of the mitigation for them.

“I also took the opportunity to inform the meeting of the fact that the majority of Assembly members have in recent weeks voted to reject the draft Internal Market Bill currently going through Westminster. We did so because it violates international law and undermines the Irish Protocol. 

“The British Government treats the Good Friday Agreement like a commodity to be traded in negotiations which serves their interests, and this will not be accepted by the majority of people or parties in the North of Ireland.”

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