Edwin Poots admits there are benefits of NI Protocol but equates it to scoring a wonder goal only to lose a football match 6-1

The Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots, has admitted that there are benefits to the Northern Ireland Protocol but stressed the negatives greatly outweigh the positives.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 11:37 am
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 11:38 am

Minister Poots was giving evidence to the Stormont Agriculture Committee on Thursday morning when he made the comments.

"NI can be a niche; NI can sell to the EU which the rest of the UK will struggle to do and NI could also sell to the UK in a way which the EU will struggle to do," said Minister Poots.

"We are in a position where marketing Northern Ireland produce is something that we can benefit from.

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There is unease and frustration within unionism in Northern Ireland concerning the protocol.

"We shouldn't shy away from this, we have the best quality produce anywhere in the world.

"We should be proud of what we are doing and what we are producing and we should not be afraid to go out and sell that product be it in Europe, be it in the rest of the UK or the rest of the world and take advantages that exist out there for us."

Chair of the Stormont Agriculture Committee and Sinn Fein MLA, Declan McAleer said: "I am glad you sort of acknowledged the benefits of the protocol there concerning our access to the EU while Britain will struggle to have that access."

Minister Poots said while he was happy to highlight a benefit to the protocol it did not change what he and the DUP deem to be an overarching negative impact on the local economy.

"I have never been shy in acknowledging that but what I would say is that the benefit of the NI Protocol is like scoring a wonder goal in a football match but losing the game 6-1 - no one is talking about the wonder goal and everyone is talking about the defeat."

Minister Poots also went on to call for a "reality check" on the level of inspections required as per the protocol.

“Taking vets out of meat plants for example, chicken factories and pork factories to check something which has always been checked by vets (in GB), has been produced to the same standards as here and the rest of European Union would be an entirely illogical thing to do and a complete waste of time and resource and cause a significant addition to the cost of bringing food into Northern Ireland and consequently an additional cost to the consumer,” he said.

“So we do need a reality check on all of this. I welcome the extension of the grace period. But that, to some extent, just kicks the can down the road. We need people to be realistic about this. You know you were told last week that Northern Ireland would have as many checks as the rest of the EU put together. How can that be a sensible or a rational place?”

Minister Poots added: “At this stage we’re potentially looking at around 400 staff (for the checks) and a very high number of vets being required.

“Now I’m not sure where I’m going to get these vets because there already is a shortage of vets in the UK, so I’m not sure where we’re going to get them.”

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