'Why wasn't more done?': Nick Ferrari grills International Trade Minister over NI Protocol

10 June 2021, 11:52

By Tim Dodd

Nick Ferrari challenged International Trade Minister Greg Hands over why the Government has left it "until the eleventh hour" to tackle the issues concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol.   

The conversation comes as it has been reported there were no major breakthroughs between the UK and European Union as they continue to row over issues including chilled meats and medicines in post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland.

Nick began by challenging Greg Hands: "You're an International Trade Minister, it is known where the EU stands on the import of certain meat products.

"We knew this was going to come. Why wasn't more done? Why did we sign up to this knowing that eventually there was going to be this issue?"

Nick was referring to the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between the UK and the EU, which came into force on 1 January 2021.

READ MORE: Post-Brexit EU ban on British sausages 'nonsense', Environment Secretary says

Mr Hands replied: "Firstly, the most important thing here is peace in Northern Ireland, and secondly what actually is the threat to public health in the EU, from moving sausages from Birmingham to Belfast or medicines?"

Nick then said that the EU "do know" why it's a problem, which is why it shouldn't have been left "until the eleventh hour to tackle".

"Well no I disagree," said Mr Hands.

"We granted a grace period which is going to expire soon, we presented constructive proposals to Brussels on how we might pragmatically work a solution here.

"The most important thing of course is to preserve the peace process, but also part of that is making sure that consumers in Northern Ireland continue to have access to these perfectly safe products. I'd even argue medicines, it's not just safe , it's essential for safety."

Brexit minister Lord Frost told broadcasters yesterday that whilst there were no breakthroughs, “there aren’t any breakdowns either” and that talks would continue.

READ MORE: Brexit: EU warns it will act 'firmly' to ensure Northern Ireland Protocol is followed