The Northern Ireland Protocol must be “rectified” or it won’t survive a consent vote due by the end of 2024, Brandon Lewis has warned.
Politico reports that the Northern Ireland secretary told a Commons committee: “At the moment it is very questionable whether it is going to be sustainable in its current format.”
Lewis added that it was in “everybody’s interest to see it rectified, so it’s going to have a life beyond that consent mechanism”.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland institutions will be periodically asked to consent to the trading arrangements of the Protocol. The first consent vote is due to take place in December 2024, explains the Institute for Government.
Lewis’ intervention comes as the UK and EU seek a resolution to the issue surrounding chilled meats entering NI from GB. The grace period is due to end in June and the UK has requested another extension until September, with Boris Johnson threatening to act unilaterally if it is not granted.
Grace period ‘makes sense’
However, the EU ambassador to the UK signalled Brussels is likely to grant the extension. Speaking on Newsnight last night, João Vale de Almeida said, “it makes sense not to create more problems than we need to create in Northern Ireland”.
RTE’s Europe editor Tony Connelly has tweeted that the EU is expected to grant the extension as long as the UK aligns with EU food safety rules for the duration of the extension, and that both sides continue to explore a long-term solution.
Lewis discussed the Protocol in Dublin today at the first British-Irish intergovernmental conference in two years and in a private meeting with Irish minster Simon Coveney, says RTE.
Where the UK has sought changes to the protocol, the Irish Government has consistently said it must be implemented and has encouraged the UK to compromise to reduce the need for checks at Northern Ireland's ports.