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Stormont minister defends building border infrastructure

Nichola Mallon said the Northern Ireland Protocol needed to be implemented.

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A Stormont minister has defended the building of border infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA).

A Stormont minister has defended the building of border infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA).

A Stormont minister has defended the building of border infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA).

A Stormont minister has defended the building of border infrastructure at Northern Ireland’s ports.

Nichola Mallon said the Northern Ireland Protocol needed to be implemented.

She is minister in charge of infrastructure in the region.

She told the Stormont Assembly: “This is a legal requirement on the members of the Executive.

“It is imperative that the protocol is implemented.”

She said her party, the SDLP, had proposed an extension to the grace periods.

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Nichola Mallon is minister in charge of infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA)

Nichola Mallon is minister in charge of infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Nichola Mallon is minister in charge of infrastructure (Liam McBurney/PA)

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The periods of light-touch regulation of some goods transiting from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland are due to end later this year.

Business owners and the British Government have called for their extension.

Ms Mallon said they also needed to find “pragmatic” solutions to difficulties which hauliers have experienced around extra paperwork.

Roy Beggs is an Ulster Unionist representing East Antrim, which includes Larne Harbour.

He said if an agreement separate from the protocol concerning the movement of animal-based products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was reached that would make the infrastructure being built at Larne unnecessary.

It is imperative that the protocol is implementedNichola Mallon

Permanent facilities are due to be built at Belfast, Larne, Warrenpoint and Foyle ports.

Physical construction has not begun at any of the sites, with work currently still in the design and preparatory phases.

The DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland are pushing for the protocol to be ditched, claiming it has driven an economic wedge between the region and Great Britain, undermining the Union as a consequence.

The DUP’s Agriculture Minister, Gordon Lyons, has halted work on permanent inspection posts.

His announcement late on Friday afternoon represented the DUP’s latest bid to undermine the protocol, which governs Irish Sea trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

As well as ordering officials to halt work on planned permanent inspection facilities for regulatory checks on agri-food goods arriving from GB, he also stopped further recruitment of inspection staff and said charges would not be levied at the ports on traders bringing goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

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Irish Sea trade checks are taking place at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish Sea trade checks are taking place at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Irish Sea trade checks are taking place at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish Sea trade checks required under the terms of the protocol are currently taking place at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities.

Those temporary entry points will continue to operate.

Mr Lyons’s decision relates to ongoing work on new purpose-built inspection facilities.

His Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has been fulfilling the UK Government’s legal duty to construct the facilities under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Last year the minister’s predecessor and DUP colleague Edwin Poots also explored the potential of ordering a stop to construction but stepped back from that position following legal advice.

Mr Poots instead distanced himself from the work and his senior officials took on responsibility for fulfilling the protocol obligations.

PA


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