SPS Checks: Points of Entry

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Sinéad Ennis Sinéad Ennis Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

T1. Ms Ennis asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs whether he is committed to implementing those elements of the protocol that will ensure that his Department is operationally prepared at the end of the transition period in relation to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks at points of entry, and whether those designated points of entry will meet EU specifications. (AQT 411/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

A good question is whether everybody is prepared to do that, because, at this stage, one of the issues outstanding relates to IT. There seems to be an issue with an IT system that has been used in the UK for many years and the EU's non-acceptance of it, which will almost certainly ensure that we are not operationally ready. There is quite a number of issues where that is a live problem.

Photo of Sinéad Ennis Sinéad Ennis Sinn Féin

The Minister will be aware that Warrenpoint port resides close to an area of special scientific interest (ASSI). Can he give assurances that any point-of-entry infrastructure at Warrenpoint port will not intrude on the ASSI?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

That is not a matter that I am taking forward. The senior responsible officer is looking after it. I do not wish to see any further point-of-entry developments at Warrenpoint port. I have made that clear to George Eustice and others. However, the UK Government wish to see it. They want to pay for it. They have given very clear expectations to the senior civil servant in this case who is taking it forward. That is the case. I have no legal remit to stop it, in that all the advice that has come from the Departmental Solicitor's Office and indeed the Attorney General indicates that a ministerial direction to an official which would oblige that official to break the law is not one that would have any standing.