Northern Ireland Minister Edwin Poots Orders End of Irish Sea Border Agri-Checks

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has ordered on Feb. 2 a halt to all Brexit checks on food and farm products at ports from midnight.

Poots, the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), announced that he has taken legal advice, which he said confirmed that the implementation of Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks required approval from the Stormont Executive.

“The advice concluded that I can direct the checks to cease in the absence of executive approval,” Poots told the Stormont assembly.

“I have now issued a formal instruction to my permanent secretary to halt all checks that were not in place on 31 December 2020 from midnight tonight,” Poots further said.

The move is seen as part of the DUP’s ongoing opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which have been agreed by the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU).

Under the protocol, checks on goods from Great Britain must take place at Northern Ireland ports to ensure that they comply with EU laws.

However, Poots believes the checks are unlawful.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of the Sinn Féin party, called Poots’ order a “stunt.”

“This stunt is an attempt by the DUP to unlawfully interfere with domestic, and international law. DUP fixated on their own priorities, which are clearly at odds with where the wider community is at,” O’Neill said on Twitter.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that Poots’ order was “effectively a breach of international law” and “playing politics with legal obligations.”

Manufacturing NI, the body that represents manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland, said that it was advising its members to continue to meet international obligations “whether or not there’s a guy with a hi-vis to greet them at the Port.”


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