N.Ireland minister orders halt to post-Brexit border checks

Border controls impact the movement of meat, dairy and agricultural produce exports
calendar icon 2 February 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Northern Ireland's Agriculture Minister on Wednesday ordered a halt from midnight to all post-Brexit checks on goods coming into the region from the rest of the United Kingdom, a move Dublin and some of his partners in government said was unlawful, reported Reuters

Edwin Poots, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes the Northern Ireland protocol mandating such checks, cited legal advice that the measures should not have been introduced without approval from the regional government.

Britain and the European Union have been in talks for months to amend the protocol that was designed to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, but has effectively created one in the Irish Sea, angering pro-British unionists.

"The advice concluded that I can direct the checks to cease in the absence of executive approval. I have now issued a formal instruction to halt all checks that were not in place on 31 December 2020 from midnight tonight," Poots told a news conference.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned Poots that he will effectively breach international law if he follows through and that it was "really unhelpful" to attempt to find a compromise on the politically divisive checks.

"To deliberately frustrate obligations under that treaty I think would be a very serious matter indeed. It is essentially playing politics with legal obligations and I certainly hope that it doesn't happen, as has been threatened and described," Coveney told Ireland's upper house of parliament.

Poots added that he would seek a way forward "in the near future" within the devolved government that his party shares with rivals who support the protocol. London agreed on the protocol with the EU before Britain left the bloc two years ago.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein, which supports the protocol, described Poots' move as a "stunt" and "an attempt by the DUP to unlawfully interfere with domestic, and international law."

Asked last week about the DUP's threats to halt the checks, British Foreign Secretary and Brexit negotiator Liz Truss said it was a matter for the Northern Ireland regional government to resolve, rather than one for London to intervene on.

Source: Reuters

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