'Sinister behaviour' halts SPS checks in Northern Ireland as Gove calls for grace period extension

Tue 2 Feb 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The Northern Ireland ports of Belfast and Larne have suspended SPS checks for plant and animal products due to fears over the security of port staff.  

Twelve staff were removed from Larne yesterday following an “upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour in recent weeks,” the Guardian reports.

Gove call

Earlier today in the House of Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove called for grace periods on SPS and other checks, due to expire at the end of March, to be extended allowing businesses more time to adapt.

He added that there were "serious problems" with the NI Protocol that needed to be addressed, the BBC reports.

Staff withdrawn

Edwin Poots, the Northern Ireland Executive Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, tweeted last night: “In consultation with my staff I have decided to withdraw staff from Belfast and Larne ports tonight. Their safety remains paramount.”

Menacing graffiti attacking the Northern Ireland Protocol and threatening port staff has been spotted near the ports and there have been reports of people taking number plate details of vehicles.

According to the BBC the local council is to meet with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and officials from Stormont's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) today to discuss the matter.

Waved through

As of this morning, trucks arriving at Belfast are facing no checks, according to BBC NI economics and business editor John Campbell who tweeted that “industry source says lorries arriving on the boats into Belfast and Larne are basically getting a waiver today and being directed straight out of the ports”.

David Young, PA News’ Ireland editor, confirmed the lack of checks tweeting that: “trucks arriving at an inspection facility in Belfast Port are being redirected. Three in the last 20 mins. Inspections required as part of NI Protocol have been suspended amid concerns for safety of staff.”