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Irish sea border checks may cease by end of month after Edwin Poots confirms Executive approval is needed

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says he will not debate with ‘pound-shop lawyer’ Jamie Bryson

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has claimed that Minister Edwin Poots has conceded the NI Protocol is “unlawful” and as such checks may have to stop at Northern Ireland ports by the end of the month.

In October 2019, the UK and EU agreed a special Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, known as the protocol.

It allows goods to flow freely across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic

However, goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are now subject to checks and control - amounting to what is being referred to as an "Irish Sea border".

Unionist Voice Policy Studies said it initiated legal action against the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) on December 21 saying that ongoing and future checks were “unlawful” without Executive authority.

The group, which is headed by Mr Bryson, claims it is now the duty of every unionist Minister in the Executive to utilise the cross-community mechanisms to block there ever being Executive authority for implementation of the “Union-subjugating Protocol”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show, Mr Bryson said a letter signed by the Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots confirmed that he would write to the Executive office about the future implementation of the protocol.

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Mr Bryson said that in sending that letter Mr Poots and the Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) recognised that the NI Protocol is “unlawful without Executive authority”.

He added: “What I understand will happen is that Minister Edwin Poots will have to bring a paper to the Executive seeking permission to continue the checks.

“So Edwin Poots as a strategic move will have to bring a paper to the Executive and say I have recognised my illegality and recognise the lack of ministerial authority to implement this and I am now asking the Executive to grant permission to continue the checks or if not the checks will have to stop.

“And of course the veto then works in favour of unionism, and of course unionists can veto the proposal.”

It was pointed out that if the UUP came in behind the DUP then it would be five votes each in the Executive.

Mr Bryson said the institutions have been “relentlessly weaponised” by nationalists so “a little bit of counter-weaponisation by unionists won’t do anybody any harm”.

He added that the “beauty of it is”, if Sinn Fein block it from the Executive agenda then checks will have to be stopped based on the admissions by Minister Poots.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “The reality is that this is an international agreement between the British Government and European Union Commission. It’s an agreement of course negotiated by the British Government and they now say they don’t want it.

“But all of this comes about because of Brexit and people like Edwin Poots, Jamie Bryson and the rest of them all asked for this. None of us wanted this, I actually campaigned against it vigorously when these people were campaigning for it.

“Where did they think the border was going to go, where did they think the checks were going to go?”

Mr Eastwood said DUP ministers like other ministers have a “legal obligation” to implement an international agreement and that he’s not sure if anyone will be listening to Mr Bryson’s advice around international law.

The Foyle MP also made it clear that he had no interest in debating with Jamie Bryson - who he described as a “pound shop lawyer” - as he has no mandate.

In a statement, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The first and obvious question which the acceptance by Edwin Poots that he ought to have sought Executive approval for the Poots’ Posts and checks, is why didn’t he realise this a year ago. Instead he has implemented the Union-dismantling Protocol for a full year.

“But, better late than never.

“The second issue which now arises – particularly given the dither and implementing of the last year – is will the DUP commit to blocking this belated Poots’ request for Protocol approval within the Executive and to do so without further prevarication and dither?

“There now is no excuse for inaction. The opportunity to derail the Protocol must be taken and taken swiftly.

“I commend Mr Bryson and UVPS on forcing Mr Poots’ hand.”

The Executive Office and DAERA have both been approached for comment.


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