The UK government has told the European Union that Customs posts will be built at sea and air ports in Northern Ireland as part of the Brexit agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other ministers have repeatedly said there will not be checks and controls, but the European Commission has told the UK it must ensure that official Border Control Posts (BCPs) be designated and operational in Northern Ireland from 1 January next.

The British government has responded by saying it will comply and operate the necessary BCPs at ports and airports where goods arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The EU has told the British government the BCPs must be of a sufficient size to accommodate vets and Customs officials who will be carrying out the necessary inspections and controls.

The designated control posts will in the Port of Larne, where live animals arriving from Britain are already checked, the sea ports in Belfast and Warrenpoint, and the two airports in Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Executive was briefed about the development by officials on Monday and a Stormont committee was informed about the briefing during a meeting yesterday afternoon.


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Junior Minister Declan Kearney said the British government had "confirmed that it will urgently put in place detailed plans with the Executive, which does include the physical ports of entry."

The EU has strict rules on the entry of animals and food products into the single market, and insists that such products arriving into EU countries from outside the single market are subject to strict inspections and controls.

The goods must enter the single market through specially designated Border Control Posts.

From the end of the year, Northern Ireland will remain in the single market after Brexit, but the rest of the UK will not.

As a result, the EU is insisting on a range of controls and inspections on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland to ensure that they comply with its rules and standards.

The Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland has said implementing post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea in the middle of the current pandemic is going to be "a mammoth task".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, the FTA’s Policy Manager Seamus Leheny said many in the industry are concerned about the "astronomical" costs of complying with the new regulations following the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

He said very little is known about tariffs, formalities and regulations, and he called on the Specialist Joint Committee – which has only met once with industry – to clarify and confirm what is necessary as soon as possible.

Many freight companies will be really suffering in the autumn, Mr Leheny said, so having to administer new regulations will be difficult and will involve people learning new skills.

He said the FTA would like to see an implementation system put in place to allow companies to train staff and incorporate new IT systems.