Businesses call for end to NI Protocol trading frictions

Business groups in Northern Ireland have appealed to the UK Government and the EU to bring an end to post-Brexit trading frictions.

The plea comes ahead of a meeting of the UK/EU joint committee to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol on Wednesday.

The protocol has angered unionists by effectively creating a barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by leaving the region tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.

Trucks leaving Larne Port where they have to undertake checks as part of the arrangements of the NI Protocol (Brian Lawless/PA)

The new raft of checks on goods at the ports of Belfast and Larne has also led to difficulties for traders.

But the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group has reaffirmed the commitment of the business community in the region to making things work.

The working group is made up of a number of leading business, manufacturing and agriculture organisations in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot afford another missed opportunity at the joint committee as we saw earlier in the year.

“We continue to hear that the EU and UK are determined that the application of this protocol should impact as little as possible, but it undoubtedly is having an impact and will increasingly do so as more stringent requirements come in from October.

“We are heartened by the increased level of engagement that we have had in the past few weeks and months, however, we need to see that our faith in this process is justified by the delivery of solutions.

“We need to see that not only are we being heard and understood, but that both the UK and EU are willing to work together to deal with the impact of the protocol.

“We want to ensure that trading arrangements under the protocol can work to benefit business and communities across Northern Ireland, now and in the future.”

A freight lorry leaving Belfast Port (Niall Carson/PA)

The spokesperson added: “In order to build confidence in the process, we need some quick wins that will de-dramatise the current situation in Northern Ireland and show communities that they are being heard; but we also need long term solutions designed and delivered in tandem business to keep trade flowing.

“There will be opportunities under the protocol, given the access it gives to both the UK and EU markets, and some businesses are already availing of those opportunities.

“But for our economy as a whole we need trade frictions to be removed and our key priorities of stability, certainty, simplicity and affordability to be delivered if we are to keep business competitive and keep costs down for families across Northern Ireland.”