An audit by EU Commission officials has found that the system of controls for the entry of goods and animals from Britain to Northern Ireland is “not fit for purpose”.

The audit by the commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, which took place between June 21 and 30, 2021, was verifying compliance with commitments under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Protocol, agreed as part of Brexit, provides that EU single market rules for animals and goods are applicable to the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland.

EU Commission Audit

The audit examined the how controls, including paperwork and physical checks, were being implemented at ports in Northern Ireland on animals, animal products, plants and other goods.

The officials concluded that: “In short, the system is not fit for purpose, does not comply with EU rules and cannot provide sufficient assurances that only compliant animals and goods are permitted to enter the EU SPS area through the designated border control posts in Northern Ireland.”

The report pointed to a lack of resources being mainly to blame for the issues it identified.

It also found deficiencies on checks carried out on supermarket goods.

Officials stated that the UK government had failed to ensure that sufficient human and structural resources have been made available to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DAERA) and its agencies.

They pointed to the halting of staff recruitment by the DUP and the stopping the development of border control post infrastructure.

During the audit, DAERA confirmed almost 60% (16 out of 27) of the approved official veterinarian posts were unoccupied, while 17% of portal inspector posts were not filled.

DAERA stated that, according to modelling they had carried out, a total of 40
official veterinarians and 75 portal inspectors would be required in order to implement the official controls when the scheme for supermarket goods expires.

The report said that undertakings by the UK have not been delivered and despite the efforts of authorities in Northern Ireland the control system cannot function properly.

The commission officials issued eight recommendations to the UK on the back of the audit to address the most significant shortcomings they identified.

These included having a sufficient number of staff, ensuring border control posts comply with minimum requirements and closer cooperation between competent authorities.