Northern Ireland's (NI) Agriculture Minister has said he plans to initiate Judicial Review proceedings over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking at Stormont on Tuesday (May 4), he told MLAs he had sought advice on the matter from a "top UK constitutional lawyer".

"At every opportunity, I have raised the issue of the damage that the protocol is doing to Northern Ireland both verbally and orally," Poots said.

"The UK Government and the European Union are aware of the harm that it causes and the significant further pain that will be inflicted as a consequence of the ending of the grace periods because it is self-evident. They know that the protocol is not fit for purpose. It was a mistake, and it must be replaced.

"In January of this year, I instructed my officials to get senior counsel opinion from a top UK constitutional lawyer. On my return to office, an eminent QC was appointed and is scrutinising every aspect of the protocol.

"On the completion of that work, it is my intention to lodge judicial proceedings against the protocol. I hope that the Department for the Economy and the Department of Health — this is having major implications for medicines and medical devices — will join me in taking an action against the European Union and the UK Government for the damage that they are inflicting on all the people of Northern Ireland."

However, speaking earlier during the same session, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the protocol was "not up for renegotiation".

"It is important for our business community that we have certainty and stability and that people can plan for the future knowing exactly what is coming down the tracks," she said.

"It is clear that the protocol is not up for renegotiation. There are new post-Brexit realities that we have to work our way through, and, whilst there has been progress to date, there is still a way to go.

"Let us continue to work together to find the resolutions that we all want to find and that are in the best interests of the economy here."

NI Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol was introduced in January to ease the paradox of Northern Ireland remaining part of the European Single Market while also retaining access to the UK's internal market.

However, while the agreement allows goods to leave Northern Ireland for Britain, it has meant checks and restrictions apply for goods from Britain entering the region. The biggest stumbling blocks of the NI Protocol relate to livestock movements and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods such as seed potatoes and horticultural produce.