Brexit: Gove says Northern Ireland businesses get 'best of both worlds' with access to both EU and UK markets

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said businesses in Northern Ireland will get the "best of both worlds" at the end of the Brexit transition period after he agreed a deal with the EU on the UK's divorce settlement that will give NI access to both the EU and UK markets.

Mr Gove, who earlier announced an agreement between the UK and EU on the Northern Ireland protocol, said the deal ensures there will be no additional tariffs for businesses in the country, and "unfettered access for goods that come from NI to the UK".

He added: "That means that businesses in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds; access the the European single market, because there's no infrastructure on the Island of Ireland, and at the same time unfettered access to the rest of the UK market."

Mr Gove's comments will raise eyebrows among remain supporters in the UK, who will question why England, Wales and Scotland do not also get the "best of both worlds".

When quizzed about his words, Mr Gove said: "Northern Ireland is in a unique situation.

"The only land border that the UK has with the European Union is on the Island of Ireland.

"Over the course of the last 22 years we've seen real gains made through the peace process and it was the aim of all the political parties in Northern Ireland and the first minister and deputy first minster from Unionist and Republican traditions, to ensure that we could safeguard the peace process but also make sure that Northern Ireland's businesses could benefit from the strength of the UK internal market."

The deal agreed by Mr Gove will see the UK government withdraw controversial measures which could have seen the divorce deal torn up and the UK break international law.

The agreement covers issues like border checks on animal and plant products, the supply of medicines and deliveries of chilled meats and other food products to supermarkets.

There was also "clarification" on the application of rules on state subsidies.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said: "For us the important issue on all of these matters is that we have unfettered access from Northern Ireland into Great Britain, but also that trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland can trade freely as well, so we await to see what has happened in relation to those matters."

In a joint statement, the UK and EU said "an agreement in principle" had been reached on all issues.

In view of these "mutually agreed solutions", the UK government will withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill - which could have overridden the Withdrawal Agreement - and will not introduce any similar provisions in the Taxation Bill.

The statement said: "Following intensive and constructive work over the past weeks by the EU and the UK, the two co-chairs can now announce their agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland."

With controversial elements of the Bill removed, the PM may have an easier job of securing a trade deal when he meets European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

The trip is being viewed as a make-or-break moment for the process after months of talks led by Lord Frost and the EU's Michel Barnier failed to reach an overall agreement.

On the likelihood of a deal, Boris Johnson said: "We are always hopeful but there may come a moment when we have to acknowledge that it is time to draw stumps, and that is just the way it is.

"There are just limits beyond which no sensible, independent government or country could go and people have got to understand that."

On Wednesday evening, Mr Johnson will travel to Brussels to have dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a last bid effort to get a deal.

Brexit trade talks - the sticking points at a glance:

- Fishing rights: The UK wants total control over its own fishing waters after the Brexit transition period ends, with a 12 mile exclusion zone around the British Isles banning all foreign vessels. The EU wants the UK to stick to the Common Fisheries Policy, an EU agreement which gives member nations the rights to fish in European waters - more here.- Level Playing Field: This is a concept all EU nations agree to, which ensures member nations cannot undercut others by setting their own rules on issues such as the environment, taxation and state aid. The EU says a zero-tariff trade deal is dependent on the UK agreeing to a level playing field. The UK disagrees, saying a fundamental aspect of Brexit is that the UK will be able to set its own rules.- Governance of a deal: It's likely that any trade deal will eventually result in disputes. The EU wants the European Court of Justice to be the final authority in ruling over disputes. The UK says the ECJ should have no role and final decisions should be made by a bespoke arbiter.