By Connor Stringer and PA
The Ulster Unionist Party Leader has said it is now inevitable that there will be a border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain by 1 January 2021.
Steve Aiken also called on the UK Government to urgently outline how they plan to support NI businesses to ensure they are not disadvantaged by new Border Control Posts.
Yesterday, it was reveled at the Stormont Executive committee that physical posts are set to be funded at Northern Ireland's ports ahead of the UK's exit from the EU.
Today, Steve Aiken OBE MLA said the posts will "place a huge burden on businesses" already dealing with the impact of Coronavirus.
He said: “We now have it in the clearest of terms that there will be an Irish Sea border come 1 January 2021. We had warned that this was sadly inevitable if we continued on the direction of travel set in December 2017 that the UK Government has allowed to continue.
"It is unforgivable that we have ended up here.
“For all the big talk and bluster, Northern Ireland will now have to deal with Border Control Posts at our ports and airports. This places a huge burden on businesses here who will be expected to be totally prepared for the changes in just over seven months time, amidst the crisis many are currently facing due to Covid-19.
“The EU is not without fault here, intransigence on its part played a big role in leading us here, nor are those who made it all about the border on the island of Ireland.
"The damage they warned that could be caused by checks on the island could be ten-fold now if there is disruption caused by east/west checks. If they are serious about protecting Northern Ireland then they need to be just as vocal now.
“We urgently need to hear from the UK Government on how they are going to assist Northern Ireland in getting ready for this. We didn’t ask for it, nor do we want it. We should not be expected to bear the cost. The Northern Ireland Executive must make a strong case for mitigation and for an urgent road map from HMG on how they are going to ensure that businesses in Northern Ireland are not disadvantaged by what they have agreed to.”
Belfast City Airport that will see physical posts.
Junior Minister Declan Kearney told the committee on Tuesday that the Executive had been given a briefing by officials on Monday on the latest stage of Brexit negotiations between the UK government and the EU.
He went on to say that the London government has "confirmed that it will urgently put in place detailed plans with the Executive, which does include the physical posts at ports of entry".
Mr Kearney said: "They have signaled that in order to implement the protocol for January 1 in a way that we all want which is of course is to avoid disruption to trade.
"Delivery on that infrastructure needs to start as soon as possible, and the British government has indicated that it will provide advice on the requirements and the funding to put that in place."
Northern Ireland is set to continue to follow EU single market rules on agricultural and manufactured goods after Brexit, while the rest of the UK will stop following these rules at the end of 2020.