Northern Ireland news

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis says tweet denying existence of Irish Sea border has 'not aged well'

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said his January 1 tweet had 'not aged well'

BRANDON Lewis has conceded a social media post from six months ago in which he denied the existence of an Irish Sea border has "not aged well".

The tweet in question was posted by the secretary of state on January 1, the day the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force, in response to a BBC report about the introduction of the post-Brexit trade arrangements.

"There is no ‘Irish Sea Border'," he tweeted.

"As we have seen today, the important preparations the Govt and businesses have taken to prepare for the end of the Transition Period are keeping goods flowing freely around the country, including between GB and NI."

Mr Lewis told Sky News yesterday that while there was not a sea border by the traditional definition of what a border meant, he acknowledged there were barriers to trade and that his post had "not aged well".

"Actually on the 1st of January we were very clear that we wanted to have no sea border and what's happened since then is what we've seen is the implementation of the protocol, the outworking of it, the purist way the EU want to see it, has meant that we've seen disruption in Northern Ireland, that not only isn't what people foresaw but goes against the protocol itself - that's why we need flexible solutions," he said.

"If you've travelled to Northern Ireland, as I do regularly, when you go through the airports, you're not going through a border in the sense that anybody expects the border, but I'm not denying the fact there is big disruption in Northern Ireland to businesses and consumers – we need to rectify that and we will do that."

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said it was "disingenuous to pretend" the post-Brexit arrangements the British government sought and negotiated were ever unclear.

"The UK leaving the single market and customs union was always going to have consequences – what the UK government should be doing now is making the deal they signed work rather than deflect responsibility or mislead people about what Brexit means," he said.

"That means working with the EU to smooth disruption but also helping Northern Ireland take advantage of the the huge opportunity that comes from having unique access to two major markets."

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