First NI Minister insists Stormont’s Agriculture Minister is «not implementing» the protocol

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Paul Gevan has insisted that Stormont’s Agriculture Minister is not implementing the NI protocol.

The DUP representative was also questioned about his party’s boycott of North-South Cabinet meetings during the Executive Office questions at the Stormont Assembly today.

The exchanges came as «intense talks» were taking place between the European Union and the United Kingdom to try to find a solution to the protocol issues.

Maros Sefcovic said today that the EU will look at all the tools available to it if the UK government triggers Article 16.

The Vice-President of the European Commission said that if the UK government suspended the Northern Ireland protocol, it would have «serious consequences» for the region and for Brussels’ relationship with the UK.

Speaking to Irish politicians, the commissioner said he was concerned about the UK government’s rhetoric and action on implementing the agreement, and in particular the divisive protocol.

Sefcovic said there had been a «change of tone» in the latest round of talks with Brexit Secretary David Frost.

He told the Special Select Committee that the EU was fully committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

«However, I must say that I am concerned about the UK’s rhetoric and actions regarding the implementation of the agreement and especially the protocol,» Sefcovic added.

Paul Gevan said the NI protocol «disrupted the delicate balance created by the Belfast Agreement».

David Frost urged the European Union to «intensify the process this week because we need to see a solution to the issues.»

Jim Alistair of TUV MLA challenged Jeevan to the assembly over «his party continuing to implement this dismantling protocol».

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) was to establish new customs posts at the ports to carry out the additional checks required under the protocol.

Former Agriculture Secretary Gordon Lyons ordered a halt earlier this year.

An appeal to the Supreme Court against the ministerial decision is still ongoing.

Jeevan responded to Alistair, insisting that current Secretary of Agriculture Edwin Potts was «not implementing protocol.»

“Actually, if it had been… we would be in a much worse situation,” he told MLAs.

«that it [as] As a result of the DUP Minister holding the department that we did not have the protocol in place.

It is this minister who has introduced grace periods with regard to pets and continues to ensure that the protocol is not implemented.

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He added: «It is the DUP that has a policy of trying to eradicate the frontier that has been created in the Irish Sea and should seek to join us in encouraging fellow unionists with regard to the strategy we are taking forward.»

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd challenged Jeevan about his party’s failure to attend meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC), deeming «on what planet would it be acceptable for a minister to refuse to carry out his statutory duties under ministers as a symbol other than planet DUP».

“When are you going to act legally and send the message to those people on the streets who are acting illegally in hijacking and burning buses and other activities, and making sure that you meet your obligations, your legal obligations, under the ministry’s code,” he said.

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A Belfast businessman’s legal challenge to the DUP position at the NSMC meetings is currently in progress.

Jeevan responded to O’Dowd saying in 2008 Sinn Féin boycotted executive meetings, and «withdrawn» the joint government in power in 2017.

“When it comes to thwarting the activities of institutions created under the Belfast Agreement, Sinn Fein is the master at it,” he said.

He added, «There is an active case in the courts with respect to these cases and it would be inappropriate for me to use this room to raise the points that need to be brought up in the courts.»

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