Brexit: Minister and officials disagree on NI port controls

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Government says Home Market Bill is designed to be a safety net if Brexit negotiations fail


NI Environment Minister Edwin Poots and Stormont officials disagree over work on entry controls at local ports, according to the BBC.

Entry controls are necessary to implement the controls envisaged under the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

At the NI Assembly on Tuesday, the DUP minister was asked about his intention to temporarily halt work on the orders.

“We will have to wait and see what happens,” the minister said.

In July, the UK confirmed its intention to set up border checkpoints at ports in Northern Ireland.

The government described the move as “a limited expansion of facilities at some existing entry points, where some animal and plant health checks are already taking place.”

Speaking to the assembly, Sinead Ennis, South Down assembly member Sinn Féin, asked Mr Poots if he was signaling his intention to put a “temporary stop” to work at these entry points.

Ms Ennis said such a policy would be detrimental and conflict with the executive’s position on the Brexit protocol.

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Entry screening facilities at NI ports would be used to screen animals and food entering the EU single market


Mr Poots said he did not want to create barriers around Northern Ireland.

He said he prefers to give people moving goods into Northern Ireland as much access as possible.

The minister said work on entry checks had been commissioned by Westminster’s Department for Environment and Rural Affairs and “we’ll have to wait and see what happens”.

However, the BBC understands that the prospect of a “temporary shutdown” of work at local ports has caused friction behind the scenes.

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PA Media

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Edwin Poots says he doesn’t want to create barriers around Northern Ireland


Officials fear that any ministerial order to suspend work at the entry points could violate Northern Ireland law.

The law – which underlies Stormont’s executive – gives the Secretary of State the power to order a minister or department to take action if he feels it is necessary to fulfill the Kingdom’s international obligations. -United.

Earlier on Tuesday, a senior DUP MP said there was “only one line of thought” in the party when it came to opposing the NI protocol in the Brexit agreement .

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson made the comments after the government said it would bring new legislation on customs rules to NI this week.

DUP leader Arlene Foster previously told Sky News she must recognize the protocol is “the reality now.”

‘Border of the Irish Sea’

The party rejected the NI deal and protocol when it was agreed to last year.

The Northern Ireland part of the Brexit deal, known as the Protocol, was agreed in October last year and is expected to enter into force at the end of this year.

It is designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland – or even any further checks at the Irish border.

It does so by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

This means that products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK will be subject to new checks and controls – the so-called Irish Sea border.

The latest round of negotiations between the UK and the EU to reach a trade deal kicked off in London on Tuesday, as NI secretary Brandon Lewis admitted that new legislation to amend the NI protocol “would violate international law”.

The NI secretary said he would go against the treaty in a “specific and limited way,” but the legislation was designed to be a safety net, in case trade negotiations fail.

Parliament should wait for the publication of the internal market bill before delivering a verdict, he added.

News of the bill on Monday raised concerns among parts of Stormont and the EU that No 10 would fail to deliver on Northern Ireland commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement.

NI unionist parties are strongly opposed to the plan for Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal, fearing it will damage the UK union.

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Pacemaker

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Sir Jeffrey said party leaders agreed they should continue to oppose elements of the Protocol


During Tuesday’s Commons debate, Lewis called the domestic markets bill “a reasonable and sensible step.”

However, Labor shadow secretary Louise Haigh argued that it was “deeply concerning” that the government sought to make changes at such a late stage in the process.

Mr Lewis said the UK and the EU had worked in a “spirit of good faith” and would respect “the fundamental principles underlying the protocol”.

“The Withdrawal Agreement was drafted on the assumption that further agreements could be reached on the details through the Joint Committee,” he added.

“We hope we can do it, but as a responsible government, we cannot allow NI companies to be uncertain about January if it does not work. ”

The UK-EU Specialized Joint Committee is made up of government officials, rather than politicians, to work out the practical details of the Withdrawal Agreement and NI Protocol.

The DUP, SDLP and the Alliance also asked the Secretary of State about the legislation.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson insisted his party “will judge this bill on whether it lives up to what the government has promised … this union splitting deal , destruction of the economy and creation of borders must be changed ”.

Claire Hanna of the SDLP accused the government of having little contact with the majority of NI political parties over the proposed plans, while Stephen Farry of the Alliance said any change “would put NI companies in a very uncertain position ”and would affect the UK’s chances of securing a trade deal with the US in the future.

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