Brandon Lewis, 50, appeared to slam the Brussels bloc shortly after the DUP’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, 56, ordered officials to halt Irish Sea border checks from midnight. The Protocol, which is estimated to cost Northern Ireland £850million a year, erected border checks between Ulster and the rest of the UK in an attempt to ensure freedom of movement continued on the Emerald Isle after Brexit.
Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, 61, the Northern Ireland Secretary said: “Obviously, this is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive.
“It is something that is within their legal remit.
“We will be looking at the outworkings of that and exactly what legal advice is that Edwin has taken.
“But one of the frustrations is this, I have to say is something we have been saying to the European Union for some time, was the kind of thing that we could see happening.
“It is exactly the sort of thing we have been warning about, in terms of the stability of the Executive and the decision the Executive Ministers will take in order to ensure that products can move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as they always have done.”
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Mr Lewis, who converted to the Brexit cause after campaigning to keep the UK in the continental bloc back in 2016, also rejected Mr Peston’s suggestion the move was a “stitch up” between the DUP and UK Government.
“This is a decision that the Minister in Northern Ireland has taken,” he said.
The Great Yarmouth MP added: “This is a reflection of the frustration of people, not just of politicians, but that businesses and community people in Northern Ireland have felt about the inability to get products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in the way that they should be able to, the way it was envisaged and the way they always have.”
Voters in Ulster have long argued about the Northern Ireland Protocol with over 140,000 signing a petition to invoke Article 16 and remove “any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade”.
However, politicians on either side of the Irish border have reacted to Mr Poots’ decision in a variety of ways.
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He said: “Though we have had a year of allowing the Protocol to bed in, it is welcome that he has come to the conclusion he has.
“Now the challenge is to bind together to make sure that the ill-gotten sovereignty of the EU over Northern Ireland is removed in its entirety.
“There is no place for Northern Ireland to be left subject to foreign laws, foreign institutions, foreign courts, foreign customs.
“It all has to go.
“The start that has been made tonight can only be the start.
“We need now to see the total dismantling and the unbedding of the Protocol.”