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Deal done: PM hails ‘breakthrough’ on NI Protocol offering ‘long-standing solutions’

"It is imperative that the NI Executive and Assembly is now restored to deal with the huge economic challenges that lie ahead. Northern Ireland needs a working Government.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hailed a new deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “decisive breakthrough”.

Confirmation that there had been agreement between the UK and EU on the controversial protocol came in a joint press conference on Monday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as a “decisive breakthrough”.

The NI Protocol led to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and sparked protests over this past number of years.

The DUP refused to take seats in the Executive until it was removed.

During the course of Monday’s press conference, Mr Sunak said the new deal “removes any sense of a border in the Irish Sea”, while his EU counterpart described it as definitive and said it would offer “long-standing solutions”.

Mr Sunak is hopeful that what is being agree will be enough to restore a fully-functioning Government at Stormont.

Certainly, in terms of trade, it is being cited that the deal provides “progress”.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: ““On an initial analysis, this new agreement represents welcome progress towards providing the stability and certainty that our retail, wholesale and supplier members are seeking.

“The technical detail of this agreement will need to be studied further and, following consultation with our membership, we will be able to comment more definitively.

“In the interim, what is blatantly evident, is that the agreement needs to work, not just for all the businesses in our local supply chain, but also for local consumers.

“Ongoing engagement between the business community and the EU and UK Government will be critical as the implementation process of this deal begins.

“It is imperative that the NI Executive and Assembly is now restored to deal with the huge economic challenges that lie ahead. Northern Ireland needs a working Government.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, in response to an earlier story that the party was expected to accept the deal, took to twitter and responded: “We’ll take our time to consider the detail and measure a deal against our seven tests.”

The Federation of Small Businesses also says it will take time to read the details and discuss with members.

FSB NI Policy Chair, Alan Lowry, said: “Business has been to the fore in understanding the operation of the Protocol and highlighted many of the problems its implementation has been causing. Accordingly, we commend the great efforts made by the EU and the UK Government to find joint solutions to these challenges.

“Our research identified five distinct business cohorts in respect of the Protocol – those for whom it works really well; those who are unaffected; those who are largely unaware because their suppliers deal with the burden; those who are protected by the grace periods; and those who are badly impacted.

“All of the issues have been thoroughly highlighted in advance of these latest negotiations, so we are looking forward to seeing the text of the final agreement and exploring with our members how well it addresses the issues they have raised since the Protocol was first introduced.

“Reaching an agreement is an important step in securing the stability and certainty that businesses have been seeking, but we also really need some form of ‘Service Level Agreement’ that ensures any difficulties that arise in the future are dealt with as a matter of priority, unrelated to any other distractions that might be around at that time.

“We will now take time and space to work through the technical detail with our members.”

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