By Q Radio News
The agriculture minister has told his officials to stop construction on port facilities made for post-Brexit checks.
The permanent inspection facilities would provide checks on agri-food goods arriving here from Great Britain.
Gordon Lyons has also halted recruitment of inspection staff for the port facilities - and ordered an end to charges levied on traders bringing goods from GB to NI.
Mr Lyons told PA News: “I’ve just let executive colleagues know that today I instructed my department to halt work on a range of issues relating to work at the ports.
“This is in and around a number of areas, first of all further infrastructure, any further infrastructure builds; the additional recruitment of staff; and also the charging at the ports.”
The minister said the move was in response to the “practical difficulties” caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He cited uncertainty over the movement of goods when grace periods currently limiting protocol bureaucracy end at the start of April.
He said: “We don’t know what the movement of retail goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland is going to look like, we don’t have the support in place through the digital assistance scheme yet either, and all of the SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) issues around the end of the grace period are just so uncertain and it’s a real nightmare for us and it’s going to be causing us an awful lot of problems.”
Ongoing Irish Sea trade checks, which are taking place at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities, will continue.
Mr Lyons’s decision relates to ongoing work on new purpose-built inspection facilities.