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It’s business as usual on the Northern Ireland border with checks for agricultural and food products remaining in place.

An order yesterday by the Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, to stop new checks implemented on 1 January appears to have failed – for now.

Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs George Eustice told the House of Commons today: “There have been no operational changes on the ground as yet.”

And business associations have warned traders that they must continue to complete the necessary paperwork or fall foul of the law.

Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland policy manager at Logistics UK, said: “With the Border Control Posts remaining open and operational today, Logistics UK is advising its members to continue submitting their customs administration and other paperwork as usual. While around 12% of SPS loads into Northern Ireland require a documentary check and 3% a physical inspection, it is unclear at present what impact this decision may have on the volume of goods moving through ports today.”

Manufacturing NI agreed: “Regardless of events, the legal and administrative advice is that these are international obligations on traders and they should continue to meet those obligations whether or not there’s a guy with a hi-vis to greet them at the port.”

A spokesperson for DEFRA told The Loadstar: “Checks are continuing in Northern Ireland. We are watching the situation closely and keeping the legal position under review.”

Mr Poots said he had taken legal advice and claimed he was able to order the ban on checks – and it is understood that the NI civil service is also seeking legal advice – but the European Commission said the order was “unhelpful”.

A commission spokesman added: “The decision by the Northern Irish minister for agriculture creates further uncertainty and unpredictability for businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland.

“The European Commission will closely monitor developments in Northern Ireland pursuant to this announcement. It recalls the responsibility of the UK government for the respect of the international obligations it has entered into.”

The UK government has distanced itself from the row. Mr Eustice said: “The overarching responsibility lies with the UK government,” but he added: “Delivering the requirements are a devolved matter and fall to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in the Northern Ireland executive. That includes checks.”

He added that he hoped the executive would find a solution.

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