Poots argues for alternative post-Brexit checks regime

Incoming DUP leader suggests checks could be conducted away from Irish Sea and Border

Edwin Poots: ‘All of these checks are entirely futile. They are a waste of money, a waste of time.’ File photograph: PA

Incoming Democratic Unionist Party leader Edwin Poots has suggested post-Brexit checks on goods coming into the North from Britain could be carried out away from the Irish Sea and the Border.

Insisting he was "entirely opposed" to a hard border on the island of Ireland, the Lagan Valley MLA said there are solutions to the controversial Northern Ireland protocol.

“It is very simple to me,” he said. “Goods that come into Northern Ireland within the UK are not a threat to the [EU] single market.

“Goods that travel through Northern Ireland to the EU are. So we need to ensure those goods that travel through Northern Ireland have a check in place. That check doesn’t have to be at the border in Newry, the check could be elsewhere.”


Unionist leaders have called for the protocol, part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement agreed by London and Brussels, to be removed because it has created a de facto trade border for some goods moving between the North and Britain.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Poots suggested a solution would be a smaller number of checks limited only to goods travelling through the North to the Republic at an unspecified location.

It would involve a "nominal number of checks" because "not many goods" travelling to the EU go through the North from Britain, according to the Stormont Minister for Agriculture.

Products being shifted from Britain to the North for sale at supermarkets like "Sainsburys, Tesco and local convenience stores should not checked", he said.

Animals being “sold back and forward” between the North and Britain should also be uninhibited by extra inspections, he said.

Checks are being carried out on the Irish Sea to ensure goods coming into the North meet EU standards, so as to protect the EU single market and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Poots said this has meant 15,000 checks on food coming into the North every week. The extra red tape has seen meant small suppliers refusing to supply the region, while supermarket shelves have emptied of certain products.

“My view is that Great Britain standards are the same standards as the European Union’s, as things stand now, so all of these checks are entirely futile. They are a waste of money, a waste of time,” he said.

Mr Poots also argued there are not enough staff “to actually do this job”.

‘Awful’ Belfast-Dublin relations

He said relations between Belfast and Dublin are "awful", which he claimed "is largely as a consequence of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's threat that there would potentially be violence if there was a border on the island of Ireland".

He said the decision to introduce the protocol was politically motivated and was driven by the Irish Government.

“They wanted to create barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain for political purposes, that bears no good for the [UK] internal market, it does nothing to protect the EU single market, so therefore we have to challenge it and we have to overturn it.

“It is to the detriment of every single consumer in Northern Ireland, whether they consider themselves Irish or British, because the cost of goods will go up.”

The incoming DUP leader also downplayed the findings of a LucidTalks poll for the Belfast Telegraph at the weekend, which put the party at just 16 per cent, some way behind Sinn Féin, the most popular party, on 25 per cent.

“The poll was actually gathered on the week that I was elected. So it’s a reflection of where the party was and not where it is or will be under my leadership,” he said.

The poll found Mr Poots's leadership rival, Jeffrey Donaldson, was more popular among DUP supporters by a three-to-one margin.

Mr Poots was ranked by voters as the worst-performing party leader in Northern Ireland, behind outgoing DUP leader Arlene Foster. He was rated as bad or awful by 62 per cent of voters, compared to 50 per cent who said that of Ms Foster.