Scottish Government expresses 'extreme concern' over renegotiation of Northern Ireland protocol
The Scottish Government has warned that businesses are being forced to deal with "huge uncertainty" amid attempts to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol.
Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office Minister responsible for the UK's relations with the EU, unveiled the UK's plan to overhaul the post-Brexit treaty to parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
The plan, set out in a twenty-page command paper, calls for an end to checks on goods heading from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, arguing that businesses trading across the Irish Sea should be trusted to self-report the destination of their goods.
Goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have been subject to checks and paperwork since 1 January, by virtue of Northern Ireland continuing to follow the EU's trading rules.
However, the government argues the EU is taking an overzealous approach to enforcing the rules that is causing undue disruption to businesses and day-to-day life in Northern Ireland.
The EU has said it will not renegotiate the protocol.
The Scottish Government's external affairs secretary, Angus Robertson, said: “This entire issue, which could have significant implications for trade and business in Scotland, is a problem of the UK Government’s own making because of their pursuit of a damaging hard Brexit.
“By pursuing that hard Brexit, and refusing to align food standards with the EU, Scottish businesses are again being pitched into a period of huge uncertainty and a potential trade crisis just as the economy starts to recover from the pandemic.
“The UK Government is effectively gambling with our EU trade by trying to renegotiate a deal, agreed by both sides and hailed by the Prime Minister at the time as 'oven-ready'. It is a shambolic situation. And one that is totally unnecessary and self–inflicted."
Speaking on Wednesday, Lewis said: "These proposals will require significant change to the Northern Ireland protocol. We do not shy away from that.
"We believe such change is necessary to deal with the situation we now face."
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission Vice-President, said the EU had taken note of the proposals and would "continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today."
"We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland," he said.
However, Sefcovic warned: "We will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol."