Downing Street will spend an initial £200million on a new service that will help businesses in Northern Ireland comply with the bureaucratic costs of bringing in goods from Great Britain after Brexit. The new “Trader Support Service” will be offered free of charge to help traders adjust to the Northern Irish Protocol, which aligns the region to both the EU customs code and the UK customs territory. In addition, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove announced £155million to fund digital technology to help smooth the new internal UK border created under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal from January 2021.
Mr Gove, who visited Northern Ireland earlier this month, also committed £300m to fund projects to support peace, prosperity and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
He said: “Today’s £650m investment underlines our absolute commitment to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland as we move towards the end of the transition period.”
In a recent report for Global Vision UK, though, the director of the eurosceptic campaign ‘Get Britain Out’ furiously hit out at Mr Gove’s proposal, claiming it impinges on UK sovereignty.
Jayne Adye explained: “This month, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, brought forward his version of the so-called ‘Digital Border Solution’ – the formation of a Trader Support Service (TSS).
“However, this does very little to resolve the predicament of the Withdrawal Agreement, which by now is widely accepted to be a dreadful document, signing away our sovereign rights as an independent country and leaving the door open for the EU to maintain jurisdiction over the UK in areas such as the ‘level playing field’, the European Court of Justice and our financial independence.
“For almost half a decade, senior Government and Conservative Party representatives have proposed ideas to try and separate Northern Ireland from the EU – without the need for border infrastructure on the island of Ireland.
“The underlying element to resolve this has been the idea of a digital border.
“This would supposedly rid the UK and Ireland of a ‘hard border’ and dispel fears of any continued jurisdiction by Brussels.”
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However, Ms Adye noted: “Gove’s latest proposal does not appear to succeed in doing this.
“It spends millions of pounds maintaining an imaginary ‘hard border’ in the Irish Sea, caving in to the Northern Ireland Protocol which ensures Northern Ireland remains indefinitely aligned to EU rules, and effectively keeps the UK subject to Brussel’s competition regulation, which would limit the freedom of UK businesses from EU regulations.”
The proposal, the director continued, is the clearest indication the Government has admitted defeat over the Northern Ireland Protocol: effectively helping Brussels to draw the UK-EU border down the Irish Sea.
Not only would this distinguish an economic separation within the UK as a whole – it would still shackle Britain to the EU.
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The prominent Brexiteer concluded: “Unless the Government resolves this matter – properly and permanently.
“If the Government commits to Gove’s proposal, then ‘Getting Brexit Done’ risks becoming ‘Brexit In Name Only’.
“We must Get Britain Out of the Transition Period with our sovereign rights fully intact as soon as possible – even if this means walking away from the Withdrawal Agreement and trade negotiations with the EU and trading on World Trade Organisation terms, as we already do with the rest of the world.
“If we fail to do so, then the last four years since the EU Referendum will have been for nothing – and any vision of a ‘Global Britain’ will never be realised.”