Edwin Poots in crisis talks as Executive ‘teeters on the brink’

The UK’s Environment Secretary George Eustice is holding crisis talks with Stormont counterpart Edwin Poots over the Northern Ireland Protocol checks.

Downing Street said checks are continuing to be carried out despite Mr Poots telling officials in his Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) to stop them

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government was continuing to look at the legal situation.

“As we speak checks are continuing to take place at ports in Northern Ireland, as they have done before,” the spokesman said.

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“We are monitoring the situation closely and keeping the legal position under review.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) told the House of the Commons: “Events in Northern Ireland are teetering on the brink – we’re not months, weeks or days, but moments away from the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and that is very sad but entirely predictable, and has been predicted from these benches for the past 13 months.”

He asked Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg for assurances that “good governances and good practices” will be put in place to ensure that Northern Ireland “does not fall behind in any of its governmental matters, more time will be left aside in this House to debate issues that are pertinent to Northern Ireland, and that the daily affairs of Northern Ireland will not be set to the side in any way and the British Government will take full and proper charge of affairs when and where they have to”.

Mr Rees-Mogg replied “we have to wait upon events” but assured Mr Paisley that the British Government recognises its “responsibility for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

Downing Street was not aware the DUP planned to suspend checks, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Asked if Boris Johnson would like to see the checks continue, the spokesman said: “Yes, we would like this situation to be resolved, recognising it is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Pressed on whether the checks could be carried out at ports in Great Britain rather than on arrival in Northern Ireland, the spokesman said: “We are looking into the legal position.”

The spokesman added: “We certainly weren’t aware that this was the approach the DUP were going to take.

“I’m not sure what preparatory work has gone on, on the basis this could happen.”

The Government’s focus was on resolving the issues around the protocol, the spokesman said.

Downing Street would not be drawn on speculation around First Minister Paul Givan’s future.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have certainly seen those reports, they do remain speculation at the moment.

“The Government’s priority is for a resilient Northern Ireland Executive and we want to continue to build on the Good Friday Agreement’s promise of a stable, co-operative powersharing executive.

“I don’t want to get into speculating on what may happen while we don’t have any confirmation of those reports.”

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