A draft report by EU officials, compiled following an audit carried out by the European Commission in June last year, is highly critical of the current system of agrifood checks and recommends a series of changes.
Officials say the UK government has “failed to ensure that sufficient resources – human and structural – have been made available to the responsible competent authorities in Northern Ireland”.
Since the UK left the EU, new trade arrangements have created economic barriers on the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, with the aim being to avoid the creation of a hard Border on the island of Ireland.
The latter has been achieved by effectively keeping Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market for goods, which has led to the checks on agrifood products crossing the Irish Sea into Northern Ireland from Britain.
The report is highly critical of the implementation of these checks, noting: “The system is not fit for purpose, does not comply with EU rules and cannot provide sufficient assurances that only compliant animals and goods are permitted to enter the EU SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] area through the designated border control posts in Northern Ireland.”
Staffing was cited as a major issue, with EU officials bemoaning an insufficient number of “suitably qualified staff so that official controls and other official activities can be performed efficiently and effectively”.
This week, Stormont’s DUP First Minister Paul Givan said his party colleague Edwin Poots will order a stop to the controversial checks, but the anticipated move by the North’s Minister for Agriculture has been branded a stunt by other parties in Northern Ireland.
The other Executive parties insist Mr Poots does not have the authority to prevent checks required under the terms of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement, an international treaty.
Unionists parties and loyalist groups have long been opposed to the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, arguing that they damage t