BELFAST â€” A Belfast High Court judge has blocked Agriculture Minister Edwin Pootsâ€™ bid to stop EU-required checks on British goods arriving at Northern Irish ports, dealing another legal blow to the Democratic Unionist Partyâ€™s campaign against the Brexit trade protocol.
Justice Adrian Colter granted an interim injunction on Friday against Pootsâ€™ order seeking an immediate halt to SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) checks at the ports of Belfast and Larne. Pootsâ€™ Wednesday night instructions faced immediate legal challenge, and senior civil servants refused to comply pending receipt of their own legal advice.
In his judgment, Colter noted that physical checks on British goods arriving in Northern Ireland had been taking place since the protocol treatyâ€™s trade rules went live in January 2020, raising fundamental questions as to why they would stop now. He said enforcement of the protocolâ€™s SPS requirements must apply until the dispute could be considered in full at a hearing on March 7.
“There shouldnâ€™t be any doubt or confusion hanging over those civil servants who have to comply with the law,” Colton said.
Friday’s judgment is the latest in a series of rulings against Democratic Unionist efforts to overturn the protocol, a part of the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement that requires Northern Ireland to enforce EU checks on goods arriving from the rest of the United Kingdom.
In June, Colton rejected a unionist lawsuit seeking to declare the protocol unconstitutional. In October, another High Court judge ruled that the Democratic Unionists must stop boycotting regularly scheduled meetings with the Irish government to promote all-Ireland cooperation, a goal of Northern Irelandâ€™s 1998 peace accord.