Irish backstop –
The British government has privately conceded there will be post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, months after prime minister Boris Johnson insisted there would be no such trade barriers.
In a letter to the executive office in Stormont, the British government confirmed there would be border control posts in three Northern Ireland ports, Belfast, Warrenpoint and Larne.
Declan Kearney, one of two junior ministers in the executive office, confirmed the details at a select committee session in Belfast on Wednesday.
He told members of the local assembly officials had briefed the executive on Monday.
“The sum total of that, and without breaching executive confidentiality [is that the] British government has confirmed it will urgently put in place detailed plans with the executive, which does include the physical posts at ports of entry,” said Mr Kearney.
The prime minister agreed checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain in a breakthrough meeting in Wirral with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, last October.
However, he was then accused of misleading the public after he was recorded on video telling local businesses weeks later that there would be no checks.
If any business was asked to fill in extra paperwork, they should telephone the prime minister “and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin”, he told them.
The Northern Irish protocol is part of the withdrawal agreement signed in January after Mr Johnson led the Conservative party to an 80-seat majority in December.
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It will kick in next year whether there is a deal on trade or not. The EU had become increasingly exasperated with Mr Johnson’s claims that there would be no checks.
Fears that the UK would backslide on the deal were fuelled by the refusal of Johnson’s government to allow the EU to open an office in Belfast to help implement and enforce the protocol.
The UK’s paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, told the EU such a presence would be “divisive in political and community terms”.
The Brexit deal means checks on the border with the Republic of Ireland will be avoided, something that has the support of Sinn Féin, and that exporters will have access to both the domestic and EU single market.
South Down Sinn Féin MP, Chris Hazzard, has said the British government must live up to the commitments made on Brexit, particularly in relation to the Irish protocol.
“The British government cannot be allowed to renege on their legal obligations and must now work with the EU and the executive to ensure those commitments are fulfilled as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Business have called for some of the paperwork including the entry and exit declaration forms for imports and exports to be waived, along with health certificates for each product coming to a local supermarket.
Analysis by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium of deliveries from Britain to high-street supermarket chains in Northern Ireland found that firms could incur costs of more than £100,000 per lorry unless special Brexit derogations were agreed. The British Cabinet Office has been approached for comment. – Guardian
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