Import inspections, linked to the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol, are to remain unchanged for at least the next month.

This was the outcome of a judicial review hearing, held at Belfast High Court earlier today (Friday, February 4). The case was taken at the behest of an unknown Sinn Féin member and Edward Rooney.

It was a direct response to the steps taken by Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, earlier this week.

On Wednesday evening (February 2) the minister instructed his department of agriculture officials to halt all inspections related to the Northern Ireland Protocol agreement, with immediate effect.

The outcome of today’s judicial proceedings represents a holding position until the matter can be reviewed in depth at a full review hearing. This will take place in approximately four weeks time.

Legal advice on Northern Ireland Protocol checks

It was evident yesterday (Thursday, February 3) that top civil servants within the department of agriculture had sought their own independent advice on the legality of the instruction issued by the minister.

In light of this, department inspectors were retained in position at all points of entry into Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, speculation grows that climate change legislation may not reach the statute book in Northern Ireland, given the political developments of recent days.

This would be particularly the case if the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis MP, decides to change the date of Stormont Assembly elections.

Currently, scheduled for May 5, there is now scope to bring that date forward to the last week of March. Under such circumstances, it is widely believed that a significant number of the bills currently under scrutiny at Stormont would simply run out of time.

The Assembly’s standing orders provide little room for manoeuvre when it comes to the time required to debate and enact legislation.

But, irrespective of what happens at Stormont, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is asking its members to keep up the ‘climate change’ pressure on their local politicians.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the UFU has confirmed that it will continue to monitor the situation at Stormont in light of the present political uncertainty. 

A spokesperson said: “The vote on targets this week is a significant setback for the industry but we battle on. 

“We have been greatly encouraged by the swell of support we have had to date from farmers and the wider agri-food sector including from the large crowd who attended the rally this week.

“We need to build on this momentum and continue to lobby for sensible legislation. We are exploring all options but may demand more action from our members in the coming weeks.”