The Government will always work in the best interests of Northern Ireland. That means working towards a balanced arrangement in Northern Ireland which supports the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.
Currently, the Northern Ireland Protocol is failing to deliver what it was designed to do and this is putting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement under strain. The Protocol is causing unacceptable disruption to trade and has created a two-tier system where people in Northern Ireland are not being treated the same as everyone else in the UK. Furthermore, The Northern Ireland Executive has not been fully functioning since early February because the Protocol does not have the support necessary in one part of the community in Northern Ireland. I would also highlight that all Northern Ireland’s political parties agree on the need for changes to the Protocol.
These issues must be resolved to re-establish the Executive and preserve the hard-won progress sustained by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. While there have been detailed negotiations over the past 18 months between the UK and EU regarding the implementation of the Protocol, these talks have not delivered the necessary progress.
As part of these negotiations, the UK has proposed a comprehensive and reasonable solution which would deliver on both the UK and the EU’s original objectives for the Protocol. However, this solution requires a change in the Protocol itself. As such, the Government has announced its intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes to the Protocol. This legislation will be designed to achieve the stated objectives of the Protocol, tailored to the reality of Northern Ireland. It will fundamentally respect both the EU and the UK, and it will restore the primacy of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions as the basis for the restoration of the Executive.
I can assure you that the Government will, in parallel with legislation, continue to work with the EU to see if the same outcome can be achieved through a negotiated settlement.
This will mean that the support available for students on the lowest incomes will reach record levels in cash terms.
In addition, I understand that many providers have had hardship funds that students can apply to for assistance should the Covid-19 outbreak affect individuals’ finances in the academic year 2021/22.
The Government is committed to keeping funding arrangements for all NHS healthcare professionals’ education under review to ensure that students are appropriately supported.