Confusion over NI border checks

Confusion reigned at ports in Northern Ireland yesterday in the wake of the unilateral announcement by agriculture minister, Edwin Poots that border checks on food and animal products from the UK should be halted.

Officials from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) and the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), however, said that the checks should continue following normal procedures, despite the Stormont minister’s call.

The checks, which had been running for more than a year, have been conducted as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed under the Brexit deal and which effectively sees imports into NI treated as if it was still part of the EU.

However, with Poots calling for checks on livestock entering the country to be returned to those in operation before the UK transition period ended in December 2020, businesses transporting stock and other goods through the ports said that the situation had created even more confusion.

“What is even more troubling is, there is now huge uncertainty because I am hearing checks are happening, but they may stop, and businesses are beginning to scratch their heads,” said one exporter.

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The European Commission described the decision to order a halt on checks as “unhelpful” and said it remained the responsibility of the British Government to respect its international obligations, adding that the European Commission had been working with the UK government to address the 'practical challenges' related to the implementation of the protocol.

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