Brandon Lewis says his Northern Ireland Tweet ‘didn’t age well’
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Andrew Marr had the Northern Ireland Secretary stumbling over his earlier claims that there is no border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period. The British Government and the European Union have been locking horns for weeks over the interpretation of the protocol included in the trade deal struck last December. Mr Marr urged Brandon Lewis to admit he had been wrong in his assessment as the tweet was shown on the screen behind him.
The BBC host said: “As Northern Ireland Secretary, you tweeted this not so long ago.
“‘There is no Irish Sea Border. As we have seen today, the important preparations the Govt and businesses have taken to prepare for the end of the Transition Period are keeping goods flowing freely around the country, including between GB and NI.’
“Can I just ask you, straightforwardly, to accept that is not true?”
Mr Lewis said: “I’ve said it before, I fully appreciate that tweet has not aged well. The reality is…”
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But Mr Marr cut him off to note: “It’s worse than that. That’s when you broke the trust of a lot of people in Northern Ireland.
“They looked at that and said, ‘come on!'”
The Northern Ireland Secretary said: “Actually, on January 1, we were very clear we wanted no sea border.
“What’s happened since then is the implementation of the protocol, the purist way they want to see it.
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“It’s meant we’ve seen disruption in Northern Ireland. It goes against the protocol itself, that’s why we need flexible solutions.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said earlier this week there are “positive indications” that a truce will be reached in the “sausage war” trade dispute with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The British Government has applied for an extension to a grace period allowing chilled meats to continue being shipped from mainland UK to Northern Ireland after the end of this month, when the current arrangements are due to expire.
Downing Street told reporters on Wednesday it had received no reply to its formal request for an extension and that work between the two sides was “ongoing”.
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However, Mr Eustice signalled that talks with Brussels on a Protocol grace period for chilled meats were heading in the right direction.
Mr Eustice told LBC Radio: “I think we are getting some positive indications and it’s always our view that it’s better if we can reach an agreement with the European Union on these things.
“It didn’t make any sense to simply say that there’s a ban on the sale of sausages to Northern Ireland, we’re still in dialogue with the European Union about some longer-term solutions on the wider issues around export health certificates.
“While those are ongoing, I think it makes sense for them, just for a few more months, to leave the current arrangement we have in place.”
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