The EU must stop “punishing” Northern Ireland over Brexit, the region's economy minister has said.
Diane Dodds highlighted the continuing difficulties businesses in the region were having bringing in goods from Great Britain as a consequences of new red tape required under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.
The UK and EU are at loggerheads on efforts to reduce some of bureaucracy the arrangements have created on the movement of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.
Mrs Dodds was responding to an Assembly question from Caoimhe Archibald who had urged the minister to develop a strategy to enable the region to maximise the “opportunities” offered by the protocol, in particular the “unique” ability to trade freely into the UK internal market and EU single market.
Sinn Féin MLA Ms Archibald highlighted that Invest NI had highlighted 30 new inward investment opportunities since the beginning of the year.
However, in her reply, DUP minister Mrs Dodds emphasised the problems the protocol had created.
“In relation to the protocol, we must absolutely sort out the damage that the protocol is doing to those supply chains and those businesses that I write weekly to Lord Frost (Cabinet Office minister) about and the difficulties they are encountering with their trade from GB to NI,” she said.
Mrs Dodds added: “Many of the difficulties that businesses encounter are not because of Brexit, they are actually because of the protocol, and they’re because parties in this House voted and have stridently asked for the rigorous implementation of that protocol.
“So we really do need to look at the whole picture for investment in Northern Ireland and we need to offer people a holistic view of what Northern Ireland has to offer.
“And I do hope that government is listening and will listen and indeed that the EU will stop on this stubborn trajectory of punishing Northern Ireland, and not helping it, as it claimed so many times in the past it was willing to do.”