THE EUROPEAN Commission expects permanent post-Brexit border control posts to be ready in Northern Ireland by the middle of this year.
Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said the UK had obligations to meet under the protocol element of the Withdrawal Agreement which has seen the creation of a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.
Mr Ferrie was speaking just days after DUP Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons ordered a halt to work on permanent inspection posts at ports.
He said the commission had "received reassurances" that Mr Lyons' announcement had no operational impact on the protocol.
"We expect the same commitment when it comes to the UK Government's obligations under the protocol regarding the permanent facilities that need to be put in place by the middle of this year, by the middle of 2021, in line with the protocol and also in line with the Joint Committee decisions from last December," he said.
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt said one way to resolve the issues caused by the protocol would be for the EU and UK to grant the Republic the same status as Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal - in terms of access to both the single market and the UK internal market.
He said any checks would then be at ports in the Republic on goods moving between there and continental Europe.
"The EU would take back control of their inspections, we would solve all unionist objections and the Republic would benefit," he said.
"So it would be a win, win, win."