Ex-DUP leader takes first step towards halting Irish Sea checks in hated Brexit deal

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Stormont’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots submitted a paper requesting executive approval for Irish Sea border checks to continue. The move could see the DUP MLA for Lagan Valley attempt to halt the continuation of post-Brexit port checks from taking place, the Belfast Telegraph has claimed.

Mr Poots, who resigned as DUP leader last year after just 21 days in 2021, is even thought to claim recent court rulings related to the functioning of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration mean he must gain the approval of the wider executive.

However, nationalists in Sinn Fein have vowed to block any move to put the matter of the executive’s agenda.

Sinn Fein, who are currently polled to emerge as Ulster’s largest party for the first time ever in this year’s Stormont elections, instead insist the devolved Government have the authority to enforce checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed between Great Britain and EU as a part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, keeps Ulster inside the bloc’s single market and has erected barriers with the rest of the UK.

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It has even been estimated the border down the Irish Sea has cost Northern Ireland £850million a year.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, £10.9billion out of Ulster’s £22.1billion exports went to Great Britain in 2020.

In comparison, just £4.1billion went to the Republic of Ireland and £2.2billion to other countries inside the European Union.

Mr Poot’s has insisted his posturing is not an attempt to bolster unionist support for the DUP.

However, the most recent election poll found the DUP down 11 points on the 2017 result, with the UUP and TUV taking advantage of disaffected loyalist voters.

Mr Poots could also be putting himself at odds with the UK Government over the plan.

The BBC reports Whitehall believes the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is obliged to operate the checks.

The UK has been locked in negotiations with the EU for months in a bid to resolve the issue.

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Brussels has proposed an 80 percent reduction in checks on food products arriving in Ulster, passing legislation to allow the trade in medicines between Britain and Northern Ireland to continue and relaxing rules on chilled meats.

However, Brexit Britain has suggested it wants to remove checks and paperwork inside the UK, ensure goods remaining in Northern Ireland only need to adhere to British standards and bring the role of the European Court of Justice to an end.

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