Agriculture (Daera) Minister Edwin Poots directed the ending of EU Customs checks on goods entering NI from GB from midnight on Wednesday.
His directive followed legal advice received from the former NI Attorney General John Larkin. Mr Poots has said it is “the right thing to do that we get the support of the Executive to carry on the checks”.
Last month, a group called Unionist Voice Policy Studies (UVPS) served a pre-action letter on the minister, claiming that port checks required by the protocol are unlawful because they have not received Executive approval – and therefore in breach of Section 28A of the NI Act 1998.
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Mr Bryson said neither the minister nor the DUP “had knowledge of this in advance,” and that the legal documents were drafted by his “own hand entirely”.
He added: “What the DUP did after that is a matter for themselves. I have been making these arguments for over a year, and saying the DUP should use the Executive to cripple the protocol and make it unworkable. There is nothing behind closed doors.”
Mr Bryson said he first raised the legal points based on Section 28A when representing the Tigers Bay bonfire group last July.
“That attracted some issues so I then engaged in a bit of studying, and stress testing some theories about this provision.”
Mr Bryson was then granted permission to intervene in a legal challenge to the DUP’s boycott of north/south bodies.
He said: “The basis of the written application was that, similar to the protocol case, even if there are obligations to engage in north/south bodies, they still have to get Executive approval. It was around eight days after that for the initiation of the proceedings against Daera.”
Mr Bryson said that led to Daera requesting a detailed legal opinion from the former NI Attorney General John Larkin.
Poots has stressed that it was his Departmental Solicitor’s Office that “commissioned senior counsel advice”.
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