Last week an EU audit report, assessing the system of controls in place for animals entering Northern Ireland, was submitted to the Stormont Executive.

The report details the findings of the audit, which took place in June 2021 by officials from the European Commission and outlines a range of concerns which were substantially directed towards resourcing and infrastructure, as well as the lack of a functional customs control system.

The report also made eight recommendations to address what it sees as the most significant shortcomings.

Responding to the report, Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister Edwin Poots said:

“I am repeatedly on record saying that the Northern Ireland Protocol is unworkable, for businesses, and unnecessary.

"I will continue to make representations to the UK Government and the EU Commission, stressing the negative impact of the additional new rules and the barriers they place on the movement of goods, products, and live animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to which I am firmly opposed.”

Meanwhile, SDLP Brexit spokesperson, Matthew O’Toole, has called Edwin Poots' attempt to block Northern Ireland Protocol checks as a "desperate and reckless stunt".

O’Toole said the purpose of the move was to win back hard line Brexiteer votes ahead of the next Stormont Assembly election.

He urged the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the party to which Edwin Poots belongs, to stop "playing politics" over the protocol and support workable solutions that would benefit the North.

 O’Toole continued:

“Minister Poots' efforts to undermine international law by thwarting the protocol is a pathetically transparent attempt to shore up his party’s support.

“Does Edwin Poots expect to break both UK and international law and get away with it? Does he expect civil servants working in DAERA [Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs] will be his accomplices in this? Does he really believe it is in his gift to ignore a binding international agreement?

“Polls of the Northern Ireland population and business show that they want the protocol to be made to work, taking advantage of the clear economic opportunities from dual market access while agreeing solutions where issues arise," he continued.

“The DUP, which championed hard Brexit all along, is doing what bullies always do when they are found out - lashing out and trying to create chaos.”