The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affair’s (DAERA’s) permanent secretary, its head of Brexit contingency and the Northern Ireland chief veterinary officer are all set to come before the Agriculture Committee this week.

Committee chairman Declan McAleer wrote to the department calling for an urgent meeting with the permanent secretary after the Agriculture Minister announced on Friday evening (February 26) that he had ordered staff to stop work on customs infrastructure at the ports.

Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons said he had ordered staff to stop building work, recruitment, and the implementation of customs charges.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon accused Lyons of a “solo run” and called for an emergency meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Also Read: Calls for emergency Executive meeting on the back of Lyons’ ports intervention

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Committee chairman Declan McAleer branded the move as “more stunts from the DUP”.

“As chair of the AERA Committee, I have sought an urgent meeting with the DAERA permanent secretary to discuss the implications of this decision for workers, east-west trade, the legal obligations to implement the protocol and our international reputation as a place to do business with,” he said.

I am also concerned about the implications of this decision on the contract to build these new facilities with the consequent impact for construction workers and the fact that the current temporary facilities are ill-equipped for the needs of hauliers, drivers and others involved in the export and imports.

It’s not the first time work on the inspection facilities has been stopped. Lyons’ predecessor Edwin Poots made a similar decision in September, with civil servants opting to continue work against his wishes.

The Minister of Agriculture is also scheduled to take questions from MLAs tomorrow (Tuesday, March 2).

DAERA has yet to respond to a request for comment made on Friday evening.