Following the Government statement on the European Commission’s decision to invoke, and then revoke, Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, Sir Iain Duncan Smith calls on the Government to rectify the problems with the protocol as mainland GB traders are facing problems shipping goods to Northern Ireland.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the reality is that the protocol is simply not working? These are not teething problems. He mentioned article 16, but article 16 is very clear that it can be invoked if the protocol leads to “economic, societal and environmental problems” leading, for example, to a “diversion of trade”. We have already seen companies that normally ship to Northern Ireland now saying publicly that they will not bother to do so any more if it is too difficult. We are also seeing diversion: some supermarkets and others are talking about depots in southern Ireland rather than in mainland GB. Therefore, for all the talks about teething problems, what will he do in the short term to rectify this terrible disaster, with advertisers now saying that they simply cannot supply goods to people in Northern Ireland? What will he do both in the short term and the longer term to rectify the mess that is becoming obvious with this particular protocol?
My right hon. Friend is right that the problem needs to be addressed both in the short and in the medium to long term. In the short term, there are a number of issues that I would not describe as teething problems; they are significant issues that bear on the lives of people in Northern Ireland, which do need to be resolved. We need to make sure that grace periods are extended. We need to make sure that supermarkets and other traders can continue—as they are at the moment—to be able to supply consumers with the goods that they need. There are a number of specific issues and they extend, as I mentioned earlier, to everything from pet transport to the provision of plants and seeds to gardens in Northern Ireland. The daily life of our fellow citizens does need to be protected and we must deal with all those questions. In the medium to long term, it is important that we take all the steps required to ensure that citizens in Northern Ireland recognise that they are an integral part of the UK and that their daily lives and the way in which this Parliament works reflect that fully.