Back off, Barnier! Northern Irish minister lashes out at EU over Brexit border plan
A NORTHERN IRISH government minister has warned the European Union to “back off” when it comes to goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
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Edwin Poots, Stormont’s Agriculture Minister, warned Northern Ireland could be “hurt” as a consequence of “horse-trading deals” ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year. The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal, will see the region continue to enforce the EU’s customs rules and follow its rules on product standards.
Mr Poots, who is a member of the pro-Brexit DUP, had previously stated he had “no intention of facilitating infrastructure at Northern Ireland ports”.
However, his department has been instructed to start work on checkpoints at Northern Ireland’s seaports without delay by Westminster.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone questioned Mr Poots during a Stormont session about the implications of infrastructure at Larne, a key Irish port in Northern Ireland, not being ready for the end of the transition period.
Responding, the Minister said he did not believe the IT system, which he described as critically important, would be ready either.
New concerns have been raised in Northern Ireland
NI trade minister Edwin Poots (Centre) has hit out at the EU
He made clear his department has been working closely with the UK Government and has warned them “over and over again” Northern Ireland needs to retain unfettered access to the Great Britain market.
He said: “Whilst the UK Government have made it clear that trade between Northern Ireland and GB will be unfettered, and the EU hasn’t accepted that by the way, and the EU need to back off and accept the fact that if Britain wants to accept goods from Northern Ireland unfettered, they can butt out.
“Northern Ireland needs to be getting the most minimal checks possible in terms of goods coming from GB, and the EU needs to ensure that that happens and that the people of Northern Ireland are not hurt as a consequence of their horse-trading deals.”
Mr Poots also railed against the protocol as a “Westminster imposed solution to an Irish problem on Northern Ireland” and said he “does not necessarily trust those people who are negotiating on our behalf because we have been let down too many times before”.
Mr Poots further warned Northern Ireland “cannot become a backdoor” for goods coming via the Republic of Ireland.
He compared this to Albania, which he said “was at one stage in Europe where it was a place where goods could come in and be transited to other places”.
The MLA concluded: “We need to ensure that the integrity of our food system is maintained, and for that reason the suggested six months free for all, which the UK Government seemed to be inclined to go to, is something that I am fighting,” he added.
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