Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has once again halted the recruitment of border control point staff after it emerged civil servants had rebooted the process without his knowledge.

In a statement posted online, Minister Poots said he had only become aware yesterday (March 24) that officials had opted to recruit additional staff.

The permanent secretary was unaware of this decision. This recruitment exercise will not continue as no authorisation was given for it. I am seeking a full explanation as to how this happened.

“In line with the previously announced decision, the department will not be investing further in port inspection facilities until the government provides clarity,” Minister Poots wrote.

An advertisement stated the roles would be paid between £25,229 and £26,051 and advised interviews would take place in mid-May.

Also Read: NI Agriculture Minister orders staff to stop construction of inspection facilities

As a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, goods from Northern Ireland are able to flow freely into both Britain and Europe.

However, checks have been in place on agri-food produce moving from Britain to Northern Ireland since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1.

Plans were submitted for permanent border inspection posts at Larne, Warrenpoint and Belfast ports late last year, with the 7.4ac site at Larne set to include an area for livestock and horses.

Temporary facilities were set up to allow checks to be made until work is completed on the permanent facilities.

The sites became the subject of controversy earlier this year, with both Mid and East Antrim Council and the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland pulling customs staff from their posts amid apparent concern for their safety.

However, there have since been allegations that no genuine threat existed and an investigation is now underway by the Northern Ireland Agriculture Committee.