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Minister of State: Maximising trade and opportunity for Northern Ireland's businesses is our priority

Last week we saw a significant milestone in implementing the Government’s commitments under the Safeguarding the Union command paper published in February.

A new deal between the UK and EU on agricultural quotas means 13,000 tonnes of lamb, beef and poultry coming to Northern Ireland from countries around the world will benefit from UK tariff quotas and Free Trade Agreements.

This addresses a key problem with the old Protocol – businesses exporting their goods could benefit from UK Free Trade Agreements but those importing higher tariff products like meats into Northern Ireland could not benefit from the UK’s trade regime.

Months of intensive engagement with businesses and with the DUP has now paid off with a legally binding deal.

We know that companies in Northern Ireland are primed to take advantage of these unique arrangements. Northern Ireland businesses will be able to access over 3,000 tons of lamb from Australia and New Zealand, including from the tariff free quotas we set up under our new UK Free Trade Agreements.

We will operationalise the new legal text on a fast-track basis, with guidance to businesses within weeks and access to the new quotas and tariffs from September 30 this year.

Maximising trade and opportunity for Northern Ireland’s businesses is our priority. We now have over 7,800 businesses registered under the new UK Internal Market Scheme, meaning they can now move goods free from costly tariffs. This includes over 3,000 businesses who weren’t benefitting from the old grace periods before.

Recently we’ve seen dynamic manufacturing businesses like Wrightbus expand rapidly into the European market, excellent agri-food firms like Dale Farm creating new jobs as they maximise their sales in the UK and further afield, and an innovative US cyber firm setting up their European research headquarters in Belfast. It is these type of dynamic and export focused businesses that will drive growth and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and the UK Government is determined to back them all the way.

The latest agreement between the UK and EU is part of a positive process in which Northern Ireland is moving on decisively from the damaging vacuum and instability of recent years. We will continue to go further to meet our commitments to ensure Northern Ireland is safe and secure in our United Kingdom while respecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its strands. We are making good progress towards establishing Intertrade UK and the Independent Monitoring Panel and I look forward to further announcements very soon.

I congratulate the Executive on their achievements, especially on public sector pay. There remains much more to do to raise revenue locally and transform services, but progress is being made.

Northern Ireland is again represented within the UK’s Interministerial Standing Committee with other devolved administrations, and we’ve seen agreement reached to extend UK legislation on subpostmasters and smoking. All these developments and more demonstrate the UK Government’s steadfast commitment to improving the lives of the people of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

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