EU Commission expects permanent post-Brexit border control posts in Northern Ireland this year, says spokesman Daniel Ferrie

The European Commission said it still expects permanent post-Brexit border control posts to be up and running in Northern Ireland by the middle of this year, despite a recent order by a Northern Irish politician to halt the building of border infrastructure, Politico reports.

Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie, himself an Irishman, said Monday that the U.K. must meet its obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol, a key part of the Brexit agreement aimed at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and preserving the Good Friday peace agreement.

His comments come after Gordon Lyons, Northern Ireland’s minister for agriculture and a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician ordered a halt to works on permanent facilities to check goods arriving from Great Britain, and to put a stop to the recruitment of inspectors.

Permanent facilities are due to be built at Belfast, Larne, Warrenpoint and Foyle ports in Northern Ireland, but these projects are still in the design and preparatory phases. The DUP has been fiercely critical of the protocol.

But the Commission said it had been assured last week that Lyons’ decision will not affect post-Brexit checks already happening in Northern Ireland, which are taking place at repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities.

“We expect the same commitment when it comes to the U.K. government’s obligations under the protocol regarding the permanent facilities that need to be put in place … by the middle of 2021, in line with the protocol and also in line with the Joint Committee decisions from last December,” Ferrie said, referring to the body overseeing implementation of the Brexit divorce deal.

Lyons’ move, which also put a stop to the levying of charges on traders bringing goods from the rest of the U.K., is popular among other unionist politicians, who want the protocol scrapped and replaced with arrangements allowing “unfettered” trade with Great Britain.

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