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Assembly Written Question 14853/17-22

Question: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs whether he has had any engagement with the UK Government in support of a veterinary agreement between the United Kingdom and European Union, to reduce friction and checks on the movement of animals and food between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Answer: Under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol and domestic legislation, Northern Ireland must continue to align with EU sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) rules. I am opposed to the detrimental impact of these additional rules and the barriers they place on theintra-UK movement of animals, goods and products from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI). Mypredecessor, Minister Poots, has already written to Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice MP, and the European Commission, to highlight the difficulties caused by these new requirements. I feel that these checks are unnecessary and unacceptable and, as a result, that the Protocol should be replaced.

The responsibility for considering any potential future alignment on SPS rules between the UK and the EU, including the negotiation of a veterinary agreement, rests with the UK Government. Discussions, between the UK Government and the European Commission, which I hope will find pragmatic solutions and lead to the resolution of the current difficulties, are ongoing.

As you may be aware my colleague Minister Poots asked the UK Government to explore this issue to identify its merits. I will continue to engage with my Ministerial colleagues across the UK and my officials will also continue to engage with their GB counterparts to consider all available flexibilities, derogations and potential mitigations that could help to minimise the impact on trade.

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