The chief vet in NI, Dr Robert Huey, has told MLAs at Stormont that he is under increasing pressure each week from the European Commission to ensure that there are rising levels of compliance with the NI Protocol.
The new arrangements, which kicked in from 1 January 2021, brought new checks and controls for the movement of goods from Britain (outside the EU) to NI (inside the EU single market for goods). In NI, DAERA is responsible for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls that involve a series of documentary, identity and physical checks on plant and animal based products.
Last month, Huey told MLAs that initial plans at NI ports had to be shelved due to the low level of compliance among importers.
While the situation has improved since then, a “Compliance Protocol” published by DAERA in December 2020 had anticipated that importers of non-retail goods would be operating fully within the new rules by 31 January 2021.
I have a number of staff in the front line for whom this is their first job in the public service
“We are trying to work with the industry towards full compliance,” Huey told MLAs on the Stormont Agriculture committee last Thursday.
However, that process has been slowed after DAERA decided to stand down some officials at the start of the month due to concerns for their safety, amid a backlash against the NI Protocol. Those officials returned to the ports yesterday (Wednesday).
This is not a very nice introduction to public life – I regret that deeply
“I have a number of staff in the front line for whom this is their first job in the public service. Some are not natives of these islands. This is not a very nice introduction to public life – I regret that deeply,” Huey told MLAs last week.
He was also asked about the ongoing problems with getting livestock from Britain into NI due to the conditions set out in the EU Export Health Certificates (EHC’s) required to accompany these animals.
He described some of the conditions as “onerous” and some as “impossible” and said that he would like to have the opportunity to negotiate a new set of EHC’s that were “more appropriate to the risk that actually exists”.