Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol
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The SNP minister also said trade problems in the wake of the Brexit deal were “far more than teething troubles” as he urged the UK Government to take a more cooperative approach with the EU. He added it was “worrying” to see the EU Parliament had refused to set a date for ratifying the Christmas Eve trade deal, which Mr Russell claimed “raises the spectre of no deal”.
But last night, sources close to Lord Frost completely rebuffed the letter and claimed relations with Brussels were friendly.
A senior Whitehall source said: “It’s concerning that Michael Russell would make these comments about our relationship with the EU, we are building a friendly relationship with the bloc yet the Scottish Government are often refusing to cooperate with us.
“It is clear that arrogant language like this from the SNP Government and a pompous minister only helps to stoke division in their constitutional approach to ripping apart the UK.
“The UK is responsible for constitutional matters, the Scottish Government did not take part in the trade negotiations.”
A Cabinet Office source urged the SNP-led Scottish Government to be more cooperative with the UK Government on “constitutional matters”.
He said: “We acknowledge some concerns and we are working hard to resolve trade issues.
“The Scottish Government are talking regularly to the EU behind our back but why are they not engaging with us, it’s baffling.”
In his letter to the Cabinet Office minister, Mr Russell also said the devolved administrations need more input into the governance of the new trading regime.
In his letter to Lord Frost, Mr Russell added: “The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has now been in place for over 70 days and Scottish businesses and exporters are suffering the detrimental effects of new barriers to trade that are a direct consequence of the UK leaving the European single market and customs union and operating instead under the TCA.
“The increased costs for businesses and consumers, the increased bureaucracy, the significant delays and the problematic curbs to mobility and trade in services are far more than ‘teething troubles’.”
Mr Russell said the latest figures on trade with EU countries showed the “clear impact” of the post-Brexit arrangements.
He continued: “I also note that the latest trade data published by the Office for National Statistics this week shows overall UK trade with the EU reduced by more than a third (38 percent) in the first month of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
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“Some sectors experienced even larger impacts, with the food and live animals sector dropping by more than half at 54 percent.
“This is further clear evidence of the negative impacts on key areas of the economy.”
Mr Russell’s letter comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “full of optimism” about the new relationship between the UK and EU following a bitter row over the NI Protocol.
Mr Johnson was in “listening mode” as he visited Northern Ireland on Friday and met business leaders and the First Minister to hear their concerns about trade.
A UK Government spokeswoman added: “On the UK side, we are taking a pragmatic approach.
“We’ve been clear that we want to build a friendly relationship with the EU as sovereign equals and that is what we are working towards.”
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