No figures are available over compensation claims following the halting of work on post Brexit checkpoints at Northern Ireland ports, the region’s Agriculture Minister has said.
New point-of-entry infrastructure is required to implement checks on goods arriving from Great Britain under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Edwin Poots restated his opposition to additional checks on goods from Great Britain as “unnecessary and totally unacceptable”, placing Northern Ireland businesses and consumers in an “unfavourable position”.
He also warned that the “situation will become impossible” once the various grace periods of the introductions of different checks end.
Mr Poots said the “controlled stop” to the work by contractors appointed to the design and build of the checkpoints has “triggered a compensation event”.
“The review process for the compensation claims is ongoing but DEARA [the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs] have not formally issued with any verified costs until all the claims have been submitted by contractors and viewed in accordance with the contract, the additional costs to the department cannot be confirmed,” he told MLAs.
Asked when the ports will have certainty and clarity around their legal obligations, Mr Poots said he hopes to have both over the “next number of weeks”.
“It is for the UK Government to make that decision, and the UK Government have been very well informed by the DUP ministers in the Executive as to the issues, the complications, the problems that are coming about as a consequence of the Protocol,” he said.
“The costs to businesses and therefore consumers, the constitutional impact, the democratic deficit that exists – I’m not sure if any other country in the world that has 26 other countries making the rules that are implemented in that country and individuals in that country have no say over the rules that they are being asked to enforce. That’s undemocratic… therefore the Protocol is not something that we can move forward with.”
Mr Poots was pressed by Sinn Fein MLA Liz Kimmons on when the “politically motivated” delay to the work will end.
He said his advice from civil servants is that the work “cannot proceed”.
“Once the civil servants arrive at some different conclusion, then that is a decision for the Executive, not for me as minister. It’s a controversial decision and therefore requires all of the Executive’s support,” he said.