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Northern Ireland 'could access UK market and EU single market'

DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots has suggested that the Brexit Deal could bring advantages to Northern Ireland, giving it access to both the UK market and the EU single market. However, any advantages would be dependent on minimising new checks between GB and NI, the minister said.

The DUP has been strongly opposed to the Brexit deal, saying it threatens the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK. The deal's transition period, agreed in October, ends in January. At that time, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods, while the rest of the UK will not.

Additionally, the whole of the UK will leave the EU's customs union, but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU's customs code at its ports. This will mean some new processes and checks for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Last week, the UK government confirmed it would expand infrastructure at Northern Ireland's ports to carry out checks on animals and food products. It generally described a "light-touch" approach to new checks and processes, though the detail will all have to be agreed with the EU.

Mr Poots said agreeing on such an approach to checks would be key. "It has the potential to get right down to around 1% of commercial vehicles that are entering NI, and in that case that wouldn't be particularly damaging to the economy. We would have the advantage of actually having access to the Single Market and to the UK market, and make NI an attractive place for inward investment. So we need to be very sure that we can actually maximise that advantage, whilst at the other side minimising the disadvantage."

The EU has strict rules on food products, requiring them to enter the single market through border control posts. That will apply to food products entering NI from GB.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Poots also said it would be useful for the executive to give some NI businesses a timetable for reopening.

But he said the executive had not yet received scientific advice saying it was safe for local retailers to open. In England, all non-essential retailers can open from 15 June, but the NI Executive has not outlined a timetable.

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