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Ulster agri minister orders SPS checks to be stopped

[ February 2, 2022   //   ]

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has ordered officials to halt sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks at the ports in the province.

He told a press conference on 2 February that he had obtained legal advice stating that Northern Ireland Executive approval was required to carry out the checks and that this had not been given.

Edwin Poots is from the Democratic Unionist Party which is opposed to the customs arrangements agreed under the Northern Ireland Protocol as it sees them as undermining the provinces status as an integral part of the UK.

Mr Poots said that this allowed him to direct that checks should cease, and he had issued a formal instruction to his department’s permanent secretary to halt all checks not in place on 31 December 2020 from midnight on 2 February.

He added that he would prepare a paper for Executive in the near future to seek agreement on a way forward.

But Northern Ireland deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill, from the Nationalist Sinn Fein party, tweeted that Mr Poot’s action was a “stunt”. She said that it was “an attempt by the DUP to unlawfully interfere with domestic, and international law”.

At the time of going to press, it was not fully clear whether customs officials would in fact halt SPS checks as directed by the minister.