Northern Ireland (NI) Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has hit out at the Irish Government, accusing it of failing to support NI during Brexit talks.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster Farming Matters on Tuesday (May 25), Poots said the Northern Ireland Protocol was “not workable”, adding that he was currently in talks with the UK Government over taking ‘unilateral action’.

“It’s very simple – there will be 15,000 checks a week, after the Grace Period, on food-related products a week alone. It’s not deliverable, it’s not workable, therefore, they need to go and reexamine the protocol and in terms of medical products and medicines, all of the charts we are receiving would indicate those are in the ‘Red Zone’,” Poots told presenter Nicola Weir.

“If Europe thinks that it is a reasonable thing and helps the Peace Process to drive food costs upwards for food which is of exactly the same standards as the rest of the EU coming into NI, and if they think it is a good thing to starve Northern Ireland of medicines and medical products… they are seriously deluded.”

Potential for ‘significant conflict’

Poots warned that the situation will “inevitably lead to significant conflict” with the EU.

“It’s something that we have to take a very strong stance on and will take a very strong stance, and it will inevitably lead to significant conflict between ourselves and the European Union,” he said.

“I blame a lot of this on the Republic of Ireland government, who should have been our friends, but haven’t engaged as friends, and that’s hugely disappointing.

“They have demanded that there are no barriers in the island of Ireland – and I agree with that – but they have subsequently demanded barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I don’t believe those barriers are necessary. The food that is coming into Northern Ireland poses no risk whatsoever to the European Single Market.

“The animal movements that would have been taking place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain pose no risk whatsoever to the European Single Market, in that we have full traceability; and the plants that are coming to Northern Ireland – the trees, hegerows, etc., which are all for the benefit of the environment – pose no risk whatsoever to the European Single Market.

“We need a bit of respect here and if Europe aren’t prepared to afford some respect, then it is for the UK Government to act unilaterally,” he concluded.