Northern Ireland news

Stormont instructed to start work on Brexit port checkpoints

A pro-EU supporter unfurls flags outside the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this year. Picture by Virginia Mayo/AP

A Stormont department has been instructed to start work on checkpoints at Northern Ireland's sea ports without delay.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal, will see the north continue to enforce the EU's customs rules and follow its rules on product standards.

When a transition period ends on December 31, some checks will be needed on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.

Tenders for the work at a number of sea ports have been made public, with bids to be made by later this month.

The BBC reported that British government environment secretary George Eustice has written to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) officials pressing for action on the facilities in accordance with the protocol.

In a statement, Daera said DUP minister Edwin Poots had "sought clarity on a range of issues in order to minimise the impact or any additional costs on Northern Ireland businesses and taxpayers".

"The UK government have now clarified what is required and officials are progressing work to ensure Daera implements what is needed to meet those requirements.

"There is a binding international agreement passed by Westminster to implement the Northern Ireland protocol.

"Approved points of entry are a legal requirement for the purposes of protecting public health, securing safe food supply and protecting animal and plant health."

TUV leader Jim Allister queried the move, pointing out previous statements by Mr Poots.

"In March Edwin Poots assured me in response to a written question that he had 'no intention of facilitating infrastructure at Northern Ireland ports'. Yet now the tender for building border control posts has been published via the CCS framework," he said.

"Bids have to be in by the September 25 and award will be made within a week of that."

Meanwhile, a consortium led by IT firm Fujitsu has won a contract to help Northern Ireland businesses deal with sea border checks post-Brexit.

Up to £355 million is to be spent on the system for moving goods into Northern Ireland from Britain, which will need customs declarations.

The Trader Support Service will see the British government pay customs agents on behalf of businesses.

In another development, Amal Clooney has quit as the UK's special envoy on media freedom in protest at the government's "lamentable" decision to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement in breach of international law.

The prominent human rights lawyer said the UK's actions through the Internal Market Bill threatened "to embolden autocratic regimes that violate international law with devastating consequences all over the world".

In a letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, Ms Clooney said she had "no alternative but to resign from my position".

It follows the resignations of two other senior lawyers – the advocate general for Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie, and the head of the government legal department Sir Jonathan Jones.

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