Legal challenge to Government’s border control posts legislation
The government is facing a legal challenge over legislation designed to allow it to speed up the construction of border control posts at Northern Ireland ports.
The judicial review challenge, brought by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, claims that the statutory instrument enabling the completion of infrastructure for agri-food controls is unlawful because it treats Northern Ireland as the entry point to 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 served a pre-action letter to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and are expected to press for an emergency hearing in the High Court in Belfast this week.
The protocol, agreed by the EU and the UK as a way to keep the Irish land border free-flowing after 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 problems with the operation of the protocol continue.
The devolved power-sharing institutions at Stormont collapsed last year after the DUP withdrew cooperation as part of its protest against the protocol.
In the absence of devolved government, the responsibility falls on Defra to build new facilities at Northern Ireland ports to check goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Last month, the government published legislation to ensure the completion of the facilities for agri-food controls.
The pre-action letter, seen by PA news agency, states that Defra “failed to consult on a matter of public interest and importance” as the impact of the legislation is to “remove Northern Ireland as the entry point to the European Union treated”.
It continues: “The purpose of the regulations, set out in the explanatory notes and various public statements by the government, is to facilitate the construction of border control posts, internally within the United Kingdom.”
Mr Bryson said: “The statutory instrument in question treats Northern Ireland as the point of entry into the European Union area.
“This is not only a constitutional absurdity, but it is even contrary to the protocol itself which states in Article 4 that Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom.
“This legal challenge will force the Government to confront the ambiguity of their actions in claiming to be trying to restore Northern Ireland to the UK, while at the same time in fact laying down regulations to treat Northern Ireland as part of the EU. “
Defra has been contacted for comment.