T4. Mr K Buchanan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, given the imposition of the protocol on Northern Ireland as a result of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, which has been legislated for in UK law, to highlight the costs of his staff at the ports (AQT 1354/17-22)
I am happy to do that. We have developed, since June 2020, the costs over the last year. The cost for vets, including managers, is £5,271,696. The cost for the other ancillary staff provided by DAERA is £6,324,902. The cost of the environmental health officers and ancillary staff provided by the councils is £12,848,034. That brings us to a total of £24,444,632.
I thank the Minister for his answer. That is yet another example of the unacceptable nature of the protocol and the need for it to be replaced and challenged. Those are staggering figures, and we have only just commenced with this process. What steps are you taking to right that wrong, which is outside the control of the Northern Ireland Executive?
One of the wrongs that the European Union demands of us is to pass all those costs on to businesses. Of course, when the grace period ends, those costs will spiral considerably, because we will move to what the Department suggests will be some 15,000 checks per week, which is considerably greater than what we do currently. Those costs will absolutely spiral. Meanwhile, the European Union says that we need to pass those costs on to businesses. Do you know who pays when we pass the costs on to businesses? The consumers. That is why I have repeatedly said in the Assembly that the protocol will hurt every single individual in Northern Ireland, whether they are consumers who are affected by the costs in shops being driven up, consumers who are told, "We do not supply to Northern Ireland any more, because it is too small a market and there are too many complications", or consumers who need healthcare and the use of medical devices that our health service will not be able to provide because of an ill-thought-out protocol that is doing fundamental damage to every single person in Northern Ireland and that will continue to do fundamental damage to every single person in Northern Ireland if it remains unchecked.
Therefore, I will continue to press the UK Government hard on the issues that are at stake here, and I have the benefit of knowing that the case is unarguable — this protocol is bad for Northern Ireland. The people who previously called for the rigorous implementation of the protocol have gone very quiet about seeking its rigorous implementation. Not too many in the SDLP, Sinn Féin or the Alliance Party now call for rigorous implementation. People are recognising the harm that they have done. We now need those people —