T2. Ms Ennis asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, after stating that she found his response to Mr Allister’s question to be quite worrying, given the significant implications for Warrenpoint port in her constituency, to provide an update on the preparations for our ports and airports to become EU designated points of entry. (AQT 322/17-22)
A submission was made to the European Union by the UK Government on that issue. It is not something that I did; it is something that the UK Government did. They have agreed a protocol that I do not agree with, quite frankly. That protocol has the potential to cost every home in Northern Ireland additional money as a consequence of adding checks, which will have a cost to business that will be passed to consumers. It is incredibly important that consumers are not impacted. The consequence of lorries that are bringing food from Britain to Northern Ireland, which we will consume, having to go through checks, has the potential to cost the people who you represent more money. You might be happy to sell that to them. You might be happy to tell people that it is a good idea that supermarkets and corner shops in Northern Ireland charge more for their goods because we have created barriers that are unnecessary. I am not in that position.
Emma Sheerin is very annoyed that you got that mixed up.
I thank the Minister. Given that he is not prepared to give an answer to the question that I asked and that, in his previous responses today, he said that he is opposed to infrastructure at our sea ports, is he signalling his intention to put a temporary stop to the SPS point of entry controls? The Minister has to agree with me that any temporary stop to the work of his Department on SPS point of entry controls, which are, let us remind ourselves, an obligation to fulfil the protocol, would be detrimental and in conflict with the Executive's position on the matter.
The decision that went to the European Union was made by DEFRA. We will just have to wait and see how things are taken forward. I can assure the Member that I am not one who wants to create any barriers, and I am not looking for barriers to be created between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic either, for that matter. I am not looking for barriers to be put around Northern Ireland. I am looking for access to our markets to be as free as possible and for people who are bringing necessary goods to us to have access that is as free as possible.