Business leaders say US delegation compromise needed on NI protocol


Business leaders told a bipartisan US delegation that the UK government and the EU will both have to compromise to iron out difficulties with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The US group, led by Congressman Richard Neal, met with a number of trade organizations on the final engagement of their fact-finding trip to the island of Ireland to discuss issues related to post trade deals -Brexit.

Northern Ireland does not have a functioning devolved executive after the DUP refused to support restoring power-sharing to Stormont as part of its protest against the protocol.

Unionists oppose arrangements that have created economic barriers to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss recently announced her intention to introduce legislation to roll back some elements of the protocol, but said her preferred outcome was a negotiated deal with the EU.

Business leaders told members of the influential House Ways and Means Committee on Friday that the UK and EU should sit in a room with representatives from Northern Ireland to resolve current business challenges.

The meeting with the US delegation included representatives from Logistics UK, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, CBI, Ulster Farmers’ Union, Manufacturing NI, NI Meat Exporters Association, Institute of Directors and retail groups.

Seamus Leheny, head of policy at Logistics UK, met the US delegation on Friday (Liam McBurney/PA)

(PA Archive)

Speaking afterwards, Seamus Leheny, head of policy at Logistics UK, said: “We basically told them that the UK and the EU both need to act on this. It’s a negotiation.

“The full implementation of the protocol is impractical, it won’t work.

“We are currently working on the basis of a partial implementation of the protocol. This has proven problematic for some supply chains.

“They have been told some areas where the protocol is good, where it is beneficial. For our manufacturers and exporters, things are going very well.

“But for retail products coming into Northern Ireland, that’s where the difficulties lie.”

Mr. Leheny added: “It will take some negotiations. The UK and the EU have put forward some good ideas on how to achieve this.

“We have made it very clear to the Americans that we appreciate their engagement, their influence and their mediation in this search for compromise and agreement.

“They have a real interest and a very good understanding. Normally, that one of their committees goes to spend five days in a country, in Northern and Southern Ireland, it is unheard of. We are very lucky to have so much airtime.

They’ve heard about the pros and cons of the protocol and it’s really like getting people into a room

Seamus Leheny, Logistics UK

“We have made it clear that they are welcome and their help in sorting out the protocol is welcome.”

He added: “They have heard about the pros and cons of the protocol and it really comes down to getting people into a room.

“As Congressman Neal said, what the United States did with the Good Friday Agreement, get people into a room and negotiate, that’s what it will take.

“You’re going to have to compromise and eventually get this deal to make it work, because what’s the alternative?”

“We need the UK, the EU in the room with people from Northern Ireland to discuss what needs to happen.

“What happens is they talk to each other a lot. We go around in circles.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol has led to checks on certain goods entering Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

(PA wire)

The American delegation has now left Northern Ireland. Earlier this week, Mr Neal faced intense unionist criticism for describing the protocol dispute as a “manufactured issue”.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson slammed Mr Neal after meeting him in Stormont, describing the delegation’s fact-finding mission as the ‘undiplomatic’ visit he had ever seen to Northern Ireland .


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