More issues than medicines need addressing in Brexit protocol – Donaldson

There are more issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol than the supply of medicines, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader was speaking after European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic indicated the EU could act unilaterally to guarantee the supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Negotiations are continuing between the EU and the UK over the protocol, with Mr Sefcovic expected to talk to UK Brexit minister Lord Frost on Friday.

Maros Sefcovic (Hollie Adams/PA)

Giving evidence to the Stormont Executive committee on Wednesday, Mr Sefcovic urged the UK to “reciprocate” in the talks.

The post-Brexit arrangements have sparked outrage among unionists in Northern Ireland.

They say additional checks on goods arriving into the region from Great Britain are impacting trade as well as undermining Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the UK.

Reacting to Mr Sefcovic’s contribution to the committee, Sir Jeffrey said on Thursday: “Whilst medicines are a very important element of dealing with the Northern Ireland Protocol, it is by far not the only issue that needs to be dealt with here.”

He also urged the UK Government to remove the protocol if agreement is not made with the EU.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Rebecca Black/PA)

“We want to see agreement so that people in Northern Ireland can have access to medicines in the way that they should. It is absolutely ridiculous that the European Union is restricting the movement of medicines for people here, especially during a pandemic,” he told media during a visit to Greater Shankill Community Council in west Belfast.

“But there are many other issues in this protocol that need to be addressed, not least the unacceptable position where goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and staying within the UK internal market are subject to customs checks.

“That is not a sustainable position and we expect the Government to act on these things.

“If agreement cannot be reached in the negotiations then the Government must do what the Government has pledged to do and that is to take the action that is necessary to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market, and to remove the Irish Sea customs border on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.”

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