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DUP facing ‘public ridicule’ over post-Brexit checks, claims Michelle O’Neill

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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

DUP Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots

DUP Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots

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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has claimed the DUP are facing “public ridicule” over their position on Brexit port checks.

Ms O’Neill made the remarks on social media with Sinn Fein set to block an attempt by DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots to ask the Executive for permission to continue carrying out Brexit port checks.

In a tweet Ms O’Neill wrote: “Edwin Poots acknowledged to the Assembly that his department is required by domestic law to ensure compliance with obligations to implement SPS checks at ports.

"To avoid more stunt politics & public ridicule the DUP would be wise to take the legal advice provided.”

Mr Poots said recent court rulings related to the functioning of the devolved institutions at Stormont mean he must gain the approval of the wider Executive for the checks required under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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Officials in his department are currently carrying out the contentious checks and inspections on goods arriving from Great Britain.

According to BBC NI, a paper tabled by Mr Poots to fellow ministers requesting that the issue is put on the agenda of Thursday’s Executive meeting for consideration has been blocked by Sinn Fein.

It is understood Sinn Fein argued Stormont has a legal obligation to enforce the checks, and that the Executive agreed in May 2020 to designate Mr Poots' department to perform the controls.

Mr Poots has already signalled an intent to order a halt to the checks if Sinn Fein made such a move, contending that he would not have the legal authority to continue them.

It is understood that in the paper, Mr Poots makes clear that if Executive approval is not forthcoming by January 27, he will have to reconsider whether he has the legal authority to continue the checks.

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DUP Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots

DUP Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots

DUP Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots

Sinn Fein has challenged Mr Poots’ legal interpretation of the issue.

Under Stormont rules, issues deemed “significant and controversial” should be dealt with by the power sharing executive as a whole.

The issue comes ahead of a meeting between the First Ministers Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

It is expected the current situation regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol will be one of the key talking points at the meeting.

The protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.

Unionists have consistently been pressuring for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

On Wednesday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned he can’t guarantee that Paul Givan will still be First Minister next week if decisive action over the protocol is not taken by the Westminster government.

He said his party had “some big decisions” to take and that he had made it clear to the Government that “January was an important month”.

The DUP leader said the Government was working to bring talks with Brussels to a head by mid-February.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told the BBC that Sir Jeffrey had been threatening to collapse the institutions since last September and was “fast becoming the boy who cried wolf”.


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