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Edwin Poots stands by his decision to halt port staff recruitment


Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots

DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots is standing by his decision to stop the recruitment of port inspectors.

It comes amid his party's opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the resultant Irish Sea border.

Checks have been in place on agri-food produce moving from Great Britain into Northern Ireland since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1.

Controversy ensued earlier this year when Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) ordered the temporary removal of customs staff from their posts in ports amid apparent concern for their safety.

Threatening graffiti opposing the Irish Sea border had been daubed on walls in a number of loyalist areas.

Brexit checks were temporarily suspended, although police later said there was no evidence of "credible threats" to port workers. Recruitment of port inspectors was also halted. A job advertisement for such a role was posted online by Daera last month, only to be removed a short time later.

Mr Poots has now reaffirmed his stance. "I have advised my officials not to progress any further recruitment of portal inspectors at this time," he said in response to an Assembly question.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Executive had legal obligations under the terms of the withdrawal agreement that it must meet.

The Foyle MP said that "ultimately, this is a consequence of Brexit, and those who had influence in Edwin Poots' party squandered it".

"We all have to work together to maximise the opportunities we have now," he added.

TUV leader Jim Allister, on the other hand, welcomed Mr Poots' response, saying: "It remains my position that all staff working at the sea border should be pulled."

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