Lady Margaret Ritchie demands answers from government over Brexit chaos.
One of Northern Ireland’s leading politicians is pressing the British government to reveal exactly how much damage is being caused by Brexit.
Former SDLP leader and South Down MP, Lady Margaret Ritchie has tabled formal questions in the House of Lords in an attempt to discover exactly how damaging the first few days outside the EU have been.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the region remains in the European Single Market for goods, meaning customs and other checks now have to be applied to freight movements to and from British ports.
The British Government in conjunction with the EU should be ensuring that the Protocol is fully implemented, and that there are no problems or challenges for businesses and consumers.
Despite Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis publicly claiming “there is no border in the Irish Sea”, delays, extra costs and red tape are causing huge problems.
Shoppers are finding supermarket shelves empty and companies are already warning they could go out of business because of the new arrangements.
Speaking today, Lady Ritchie said: “We need to get to the bottom of just how bad things are at the Northern Ireland/ Britain border and how much mayhem the Tories’ rushed, hopeless and unwanted agreement just before Christmas is causing.
“I have now tabled formal questions in the House of Lords asking the government to come clean on what assessment it has made of how the Northern Ireland Protocol is working and the impact it is having on commercial and retail businesses.
“So we can get a clear picture of what is happening at our ports, I have asked for information about the total number of vehicles that have entered Northern Ireland since the protocol came into force on January
“I want to know how many of those vehicles have been subject to inspection and the average length of time each check has taken.
“In addition, I have asked what steps the British government is taking to mitigate the effect of the stock shortages that have occurred in Northern Irish food and other retail outlets as a result of Brexit.”
Lady Ritchie said she hoped her formal questions, which have to be answered by a minister, would “smoke out” just how badly Northern Ireland was being affected by the January 1 changes.
Lady Ritchie added: “Even as Brandon Lewis was smugly and arrogantly claiming there was no border in the Irish Sea, lorries coming off the ferries from Britain were being subjected to inspection.
“Frankly, his assessment of the situation was insulting. It is as plain as a pikestaff that Brexit is causing major disruption. We can see it in the empty supermarket shelves, the unfulfilled online orders and the customs sheds.
“If the Secretary of State won’t come clean about this unfolding disaster, then hopefully as a result of my questions, other ministers will have to.
“Quite frankly, the British Government has to ensure that the Ireland/N Ireland Protocol is fully implemented and not undermined by endless bureaucracy.
“I expect full and truthful answers and when I get them, I hope to be able to give the people of Northern Ireland a helpful and honest assessment of just how bad things are and what issues we can expect to face in the future.”