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DUP and Tory Brexiteers join forces to demand Rishi Sunak stops building EU customs checkpoints in Northern Ireland as row looms over potential deal with Brussels

  • Former Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg among signatories 
  • Ex-ministers including John Redwood and Mark Francois also called for halt
  • Government building posts for agri-food checks at Northern Irish ports

Tory Brexiteers and DUP leaders have fired a warning shot across Rishi Sunak‘s bow with a demand he halt building work on new customs checkpoints in Northern Ireland.

Former Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and other ex-ministers including John Redwood and Mark Francois are among those who have called on the Government to halt work on posts for agri-food checks at Ulster ports.

The devolved powersharing institutions at Stormont collapsed last year after the DUP withdrew co-operation as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In the absence of devolved government, responsibility falls on Defra to construct new facilities at Northern Ireland ports to check goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, checks that are opposed by the DUP.

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Last month, the government published legislation to ensure completion of the facilities for agri-food checks.

But in an early day motion tabled by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, a hardcore of 14 MPs say that ‘injurious’ checks would ‘give effect to a customs border that divides the United Kingdom, treating Northern Ireland like a foreign country’.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Former Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson led calls on the Government to halt work on posts for agri-food checks at Ulster ports.

Rishi Sunak has  scrambled to soothe DUP and Tory MP nerves over Northern Ireland protocol concessions as No10 played down hopes a deal is nearly done.

Rishi Sunak has  scrambled to soothe DUP and Tory MP nerves over Northern Ireland protocol concessions as No10 played down hopes a deal is nearly done.

In the absence of devolved government, responsibility falls on Defra to construct new facilities at Northern Ireland ports to check goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

In the absence of devolved government, responsibility falls on Defra to construct new facilities at Northern Ireland ports to check goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

They add that they would also ‘protect the integrity of a different legal regime in Northern Ireland created by laws in over 300 areas imposed by a polity of which it is not a part and in which it has no representation’, namely the European Union. 

Rishi Sunak scrambled to soothe DUP and Tory MP nerves over Northern Ireland protocol concessions today as No10 played down hopes a deal is nearly done.

The UK and EU are said to be ‘inching’ towards a settlement that could end years of wrangling over post-Brexit rules.

Brussels is believed to have agreed a package that includes scrapping routine checks on products destined for the province.

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The bloc also appears to have accepted that the European Court of Justice would only be able to intervene if the domestic courts refer issues.

However, Downing Street said there were still ‘significant gaps’ and it is far from clear that the terms will be acceptable to unionists in Northern Ireland, or Tory Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Government is facing a legal challenge over the legislation used to over-ride Stormont.

A judicial review challenge, brought by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, asserts that the statutory instrument enabling the completion of infrastructure for agri-food checks is unlawful because it treats Northern Ireland as the entry point into the European Union.

His claim states that the Northern Ireland Protocol itself asserts that Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom.

Mr Bryson’s legal representatives have served a pre-action letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The protocol, which was agreed by the EU and UK as a way to keep the Irish land border free-flowing post-Brexit, has created a series of new customs and regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Negotiations between London and Brussels to resolve issues with the operation of the protocol are continuing.

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