By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST – Northern Irish business groups welcomed “signs of movement from both sides” after the European Commission on Wednesday put a package of measures to Britain that could ease the transit of goods to Northern Ireland.
The measures are designed to ease customs controls, such as the clearance of meat, dairy and other food products and the flow of medicines to the British province from the British mainland that have been hindered by barriers introduced under the Northern Ireland protocol.
The protocol – agreed as part of the Brexit divorce accord to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland – keeps the British-run region, in effect, in the EU’s customs union and single market for goods.
“If these proposals are to work then they must meet the tests that have been set out by the NI business community, namely that they must provide stability, certainty, simplicity and affordability,” the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group said in a statement.
“Some of the solutions being mooted go some way towards meeting those tests, however, we will reserve judgement until we have seen both legal and technical texts.
“As an umbrella group for business, we will have meetings with both the UK Government and the European Commission to discuss these proposals in full and we look forward to understanding how they would keep NI business competitive and ensure choice and affordability for consumers.”
The Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group (NIBBWG) was formed in December, 2019 when Britain and the EU agreed the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement to highlight the concerns of the more than 85% of Northern Ireland business that it represents.