| 12.3°C Belfast

Brexit: UK Government to pay for Northern Ireland port controls after Poots proposed halting work

Close

The movement of goods into Northern Ireland from Britain is a key sticking point (Niall Carson/PA)

The movement of goods into Northern Ireland from Britain is a key sticking point (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

The movement of goods into Northern Ireland from Britain is a key sticking point (Niall Carson/PA)

The UK Government is set to pay for work on post-Brexit port checks in Northern Ireland, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has said.

The DUP MLA told the BBC that the UK Government would now pay for the work after he reportedly proposed pausing it due to the current political uncertainty around Brexit.

In the summer, the Government said enhanced regulatory checks would be required on animals and food products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit deal.

The Executive assumed a legal responsibility to undertake the work for the Government to enable it to fulfil its international obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.

However, Mr Poots expressed a reluctance to commit an estimated £40m to the project without further clarity.

At an Executive meeting last Thursday a vote proposing the halting of the work was defeated, with further legal advice sought.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice wrote to Mr Poots over the weekend to give further details on the plans.

Close

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots (Niall Carson/PA)

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Poots told the Farming Matters programme that the "UK government have made it clear they want it to happen".

"They're paying for it to happen," he said.

"I wasn't ready to sign off £40m of public money on something where we didn't know what was required.

"George Eustace has been prepared to do that, and he was prepared to say the following, in the view of DEFRA (UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), is required.

"And it is Defra that will actually be paying for it."

Close

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he gave a ‘straight answer’ (Niall Carson/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he gave a ‘straight answer’ (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he gave a ‘straight answer’ (Niall Carson/PA)

It comes as Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended his recent comment that the Government's Internal Market Bill would break international law in a "specific and limited way".

On Wednesday he told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs his assertions were consistent with advice from the Government's main legal adviser, attorney general Suella Braverman QC.

"My answer was in line with the legal opinion given by the law officers" he said.

"The position I took at the dispatch box is not a breach of the ministerial code but I am not the arbiter of that.

"I gave a very straight answer to Parliament last week in line with the Attorney General's position.

"My position is absolutely in line with the legal advice that the Attorney General put out."

Mr Lewis expanded on the circumstances of his comments during an urgent question on the Bill in Parliament.

He said: "I read out something very specific because I wanted to ensure that what I said, to make sure that I was giving the House a straight answer."

Despite the heated rhetoric on both sides of the post-Brexit talks, Mr Lewis insisted he believed the European Union was acting in "good faith" in the negotiations.

He told MPs he did not believe the row over the UK Internal Market Bill would derail the talks between Westminster and Brussels.

"I think the negotiators on both sides are very capable of being focused on negotiations," the Northern Ireland Secretary said.

Mr Lewis said he was "fairly optimistic" about the trade negotiations and did not think the row would distract from the talks.

Belfast Telegraph