NI Protocol: EU silent on claims NI suffers 2.5 times more customs checks than Europe’s main port of Rotterdam

The European Commission has offered no ‘direct comment’ on David Trimble’s claim that NI suffers far more customs checks than the main EU port of Rotterdam.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 6:30 am
The port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest port & industrial hub. The sprawling North Sea port covers 26 miles and is used by container ships, ferry services and cruise liners. Lord Trimble says there are now more customs checks on the trade that comes to NI from GB than through Rotterdam, the EU’s main entrance for goods from the rest of the world. Photo: Google maps.
The port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest port & industrial hub. The sprawling North Sea port covers 26 miles and is used by container ships, ferry services and cruise liners. Lord Trimble says there are now more customs checks on the trade that comes to NI from GB than through Rotterdam, the EU’s main entrance for goods from the rest of the world. Photo: Google maps.

Last week in the Times Lord Trimble rejected persistent claims from Brussels and Dublin that the NI Protocol does not undermine the Belfast Agreement.

He also highlighted what he said was the huge disparity between the volume of customs checks the EU now requires on trade coming into NI from GB compared to  that coming into the port which handles the bulk of inward trade to the EU - the sprawling 26 mile Rotterdam port.

Mr Trimble said: “After all, there are now more checks [in NI] than on all the trade that comes through the EU’s entire eastern frontier, a known smuggling route, or even Rotterdam, the EU’s main entrance for goods from the rest of the world.”

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His words echoed those of Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, who says NI suffers two-and-a-half times more EU customs checks than Rotterdam.

“The Protocol was foisted on Northern Ireland against our will and means there are two and a half times more checks at our ports than at Rotterdam, one of the world’s largest ports,” he said recently. “It has resulted in 15,000 checks per week, meanwhile we have neither the infrastructure nor staff to meet the EU’s demands.”

The News Letter invited the European Commission to refute the claims. A spokesman replied: “I have no direct comment on the comments you sent me.”

He noted comments to the media from EU Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič last week.

Mr Šefčovič said: “I know that our UK partners are referring to different numbers [compared] with Rotterdam [paused to laugh] all things which simply as we look at them are misleading.

“First and foremost because we do not have access to the IT systems so we really don’t know. And if it comes to physical checks it is simply not comparable, what is the level of checks in Rotterdam or in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Šefčovič did not explain how he could be certain the claims were “misleading” while at the same time admitting “we really don’t know” due to lack of access to IT systems.

The European Commission advised that the UK has not provided it with any information on the matter, but said this was “an extremely complex area, which makes it very difficult to compare official controls”.

 UUP peer Lord Empey responded: “This is not trying to protect the single market, this is designed to make life difficult for the UK and in particular the people of Northern Ireland.”

“The EU should be open and transparent on whether it is true or not that they are enforcing checks more stringently between GB and NI than in places like Rotterdam. It would fly in the face of the pragmatism that is required to deal with the issues resulting from the NI Protocol. It would be absolutely incredible if Rotterdam - one of the world’s busiest ports - had less checks than now than NI.”

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