Brexit: Government confirms new checks on goods entering NI from GB

The government has confirmed there will be new checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK as part of the Brexit deal. It will expand infrastructure at Northern Ireland’s ports to carry out checks on animals and food products. The details are contained in UK proposals for implementing the NI part of the Brexit deal.

Northern Ireland will continue to follow some EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods. The Northern Ireland protocol is supposed to be operational by January and has to be applied even if the UK and EU do not reach a trade deal. The government said the protocol could “be implemented in a pragmatic, proportionate way”.

“Implementing the protocol in this way will ensure we can support businesses and citizens, and protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s customs territory while upholding our commitments to the EU’s Single Market,” said Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

“Northern Ireland will benefit fully from its access to the UK and EU markets.” Under the deal, reached in October, NI will continue to follow some EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods. The government said that working with the NI executive it, at a minimum, expects to request additional categories of commodities to be checked at Belfast Port, and to designate Larne Port for live animals.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Gove emphasised that trade from NI to GB would remain “unfettered”.

The government said there would not need to be any new paperwork for almost all GB-NI trade, including what are known exit summary declarations. The EU has previously suggested these declarations will be needed so this could be a point of dispute.

The deal also means the whole of the UK will leave the EU’s customs union, but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU’s customs code at its ports. However the UK says it sees it “sees no need to construct new bespoke customs infrastructure in NI”.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has previously suggested that new customs processes would not have to be at the point of entry into Northern Ireland. The EU has been concerned that the UK has not been taking practical steps to prepare for these changes. Last week, Mr Barnier said he was waiting for the UK to lay out its approach with confidence and vigilance.

However, the UK government had already told the EU it would develop Border Control Posts (BCPs) at Northern Ireland’s ports. The EU has strict rules on the entry of animals and food products into the single market. These products must always enter the single market through designed BCPs.

Live animals entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are already subject to checks, but food products are not. The UK and EU have been in dispute about whether the EU should have a permanent technical office in Belfast to oversee checks. The EU say the office is required and permitted under the deal.

However, the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said it would amount to a ‘mini embassy” and is unacceptable to the UK.

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