Business and retail leaders have said there is an “urgent need” for an agreed solution between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost on Wednesday called for “significant” changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade deals, but refrained from tearing up parts of the deal.
He warned that the “purist” way in which the Northern Ireland Protocol was implemented was causing economic and societal damage and said there should be a “shutdown” period maintaining existing grace periods allowing for the flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
But the European Union quickly fought back, warning the UK it would not renegotiate the deal.
Any solution must be agreed with the EU, because without it there can be no stability
The protocol was put in place to ensure there would be no hard border with Ireland, but instead it placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the two sides need to come to an agreement.
He added: âWhile it is good to see that the UK government has listened to the issues facing retailers, any solution that is not accepted by both sides cannot provide the certainty and stability that NI retailers and consumers need it.
âAny solution must be agreed with the EU, because without it there can be no stability.
“It could also have serious consequences for UK consumers, if sanctions, such as tariffs, are imposed under the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
Mr Connolly said: âNorthern Ireland finds itself in a unique situation which requires a unique solution accepted by both the UK and the EU. There is now a real urgency to deliver an agreed solution that works for consumers.
âIt is extremely difficult for companies to plan for the future or to invest if there is no stability.
âRetailers need to know by August what arrangements will be made from October to enable retailers to make key decisions on product sourcing and availability and thus avoid issues of choice and affordability for consumers. NI households. “
The head of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) of Northern Ireland urged the UK and the EU to urgently engage in talks to get results.
Roger Pollen said: âSince the Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect, we have highlighted to the government and the EU the issues his operation poses for our members. While some companies undoubtedly welcome the protection offered by the protocol, others find that it has created new bureaucracy, increased costs and affected supply chains.
Solutions are available if the political will is there
âThe statement and command document drawn up by the UK government is one side’s response to address these issues, which will be discussed with the EU. Lord Frost said “we cannot continue as we are”. The FSB NI would agree with these sentiments, so we also welcome the EU’s offer that it is ready to find âcreative solutionsâ.
Mr Pollen added: âSolutions are available if the political will is there. With the grace periods set to expire at the end of September and small businesses grappling with day-to-day customs complexity, it is urgent that discussions lead to results.
“We once again call on both parties to live up to the commitment they have made – that the protocol should have as little impact as possible on the daily life of communities.”