Speaking on BBC Question Time, Lewis claimed that Northern Ireland is the “place to invest and grow your business” because it has “unique” access to trading with both the UK and the EU through the single market.
England, Scotland and Wales left the single market last month at the end of the Brexit transition period, but because of the Northern Ireland Protocol – put in place in light of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure peace along the Irish border – they will stay and continue to follow EU rules.
As Lewis explained, that does now put Northern Ireland in a unique position. He said:
“The Protocol means that as part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland’s going to have this unique competitive advantage in the world, in the sense that Northern Ireland has the ability to trade in and as part of the United Kingdom, as well as through the single market with the EU.
"That’s going to mean, if you’re a business that deals with the UK and a business that deals with the EU, the place to invest and grow your business is in Northern Ireland. You’ve got that ability to trade both ways and I think that gives Northern Ireland a competitive advantage and a huge opportunity.”
That “unique position” is one that the entirety of the UK enjoyed until Lewis’s party pulled us away from it.
The UK can still trade as ever amongst itself, but trading with the EU is now more difficult for England, Scotland and Wales (at least for now). It’s gotten off to a rocky start, especially when it comes to fish, a quickly perishable good whose prices have plummeted while it waits to navigate the post-Brexit red tape for exportation to mainland Europe.
Lewis’s comments proved “baffling” to people who wondered why the UK didn’t just retain this same “competitive advantage” by staying in the EU.
So much for the UK “holding all the cards” in business after Brexit.