Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat Norther Ireland spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, has called on the Government to stop picking needless fights with the EU and sit down to find an agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary checks in order to ease trade disruption. Speaking during an urgent debate after the Government unilaterally reneged on commitments in the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU, Mr Carmichael called for a longer term approach and an end to damaging behaviour by the Government.
Speaking remotely in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“I have to say it’s far from clear just exactly what the Government is trying to achieve. Whatever it is you have to think that it can only have been damaged by what we saw happening in the continued insistence on unilateral action here. So, can we maybe just have a pause and a reset and focus to achieve the long-term creation of sustainable procedures. Primary amongst these has surely got to be the agreement of an EU-UK veterinary protocol. So, can the Minister update the House on what is happening in that, what barriers remain to an agreement of that sort, and when we can expect to hear of a successful conclusion?”
Responding for the Government, Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis said:
“Well, the Rt Hon Gentleman actually does make an important point and we do want to work, obviously, with the EU on a range of issues and part of the issue around extending these grace periods was ensuring we don’t have a cliff edge and for us to work through some issues with the EU in a mutual way that works for everybody as we have done this year.
“Obviously, there’s been examples where we have worked with the EU to deliver on some of those issues in Northern Ireland. We want to continue that way. The reason we made the decision last week was purely because we simply were at this time critical point where because of the way supply lines and timelines work, if we hadn’t have made the decision last week, anything even this week and next week would have been too late to prevent issues for supply lines into Northern Ireland.
“Going forward we want to continue to work with the EU including on issues such as he has outlines, and the Secretary of State for the Department of Food and Rural Affairs is working with his counterparts in the EU on those very issues now.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“Whether for Northern Ireland specifically or on UK-wide issues, we will never see a long-term solution with the EU if the Government keeps picking fights to distract from its responsibilities. An SPS and veterinary agreement with the EU would made life easier for businesses across the UK – it is time for the Government to set aside ideology and find pragmatic solutions.”