The UK is damaging itself to keep the EU happy on customs checks, Northern Ireland’s first minister has said.
She said parcels were still not getting through and retailers like John Lewis were not delivering despite extensions of easier regulations in some areas until October.
“There is damage happening to the Belfast Agreement and its successor agreement.
“It has also damaged the UK internal market by putting in place a system to protect the EU single market.
“What we are doing is damaging our own country,” said the Stormont First Minister. “There is damage happening to the Belfast Agreement and its successor agreement.
“It has also damaged the UK internal market by putting in place a system to protect the EU single market.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson visited Northern Ireland on Friday, meeting business leaders and the first minister to hear their concerns, but deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin was “otherwise engaged”, according to No 10.
Stormont’s Agriculture Minister has stalled work on permanent border checkpoints for food entering through Northern Ireland’s ports from the rest of the UK.
Mrs Foster told Times Radio: “The Agriculture Minister (Edwin Poots) is looking at all of these issues. He is taking legal advice and speaking to officials as to what needs to be done.”
Earlier in the week Mr Poots said the prospect of Northern Ireland having to carry out the same number of checks as the EU does as a whole was not rational.
“What has been imposed upon Northern Ireland is irrational, it is oppressive, it is burdensome and, actually, frankly ridiculous,” he told an Assembly committee.
Ms Foster said some foods from Great Britain heading for Northern Ireland would be marked for sale in pound sterling and therefore posed no risk of entering the Republic of Ireland where they use euros.
She blamed the EU, saying that it was imposing third-party checks similar to if somewhere like China wanted to send goods into the single market
“It is completely disproportionate to what is necessary,” said Ms Foster.
The Northern Ireland Assembly will be able to vote on whether to scrap the protocol in 2024 but Ms Foster believes action needs to happen sooner because the economy is suffering now. Mr Johnson has said the protocol is not operating in the way he envisaged.
She said: “We need replacement of the protocol and a much more sensible way to deal with the risk to the (EU) single market.”
Additional reporting by Press Assocation
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