Gordon Lyons says he will bring many issues to executive if all protocol decisions need ministerial approval.
By Conor MacauleyBBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent
image captionNI has remained part of the EU’s single market for goods and continues to enforce EU customs rules at its ports
NI’s agriculture minister has said he will be bring many issues to the executive if all Northern Ireland Protocol decisions need approved by ministers.
Gordon Lyons made the remarks in the assembly on Tuesday.
The DUP minister has been criticised over a decision to halt work on post-Brexit border control posts.
Opponents said as the decision cut across several departments it ought to have been agreed by the executive.
Mr Lyons told MLAs there “is the opinion that issues that are cross-cutting in this way should come to the executive”.
He did not specify whether that opinion had been expressed by NI’s Attorney General Brenda King at Monday’s executive meeting.
image captionGordon Lyons was accused of doing “a solo run” after halting work on new permanent border control posts
“It was my opinion that DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) had been given responsibility for this, however I know others take a different view.
“If it is the case that issues relating to the protocol need to come to the executive there will be a lot of other things that, before my department carries them out, will have to go to the executive and that will require the support of the executive before they can proceed.”
Mr Lyons also confirmed that Irish Sea border checks were continuing at the temporary facilities, with DAERA staff currently working out of Larne and Belfast docks.
He also said he had spoken to DEFRA Minister George Eustice and had reiterated his view that the protocol was putting an undue burden on Northern Ireland trade with Great Britain.
He said he had asked Mr Eustice how he would feel if Brexit had resulted in a border between Devon and the minister’s Cornwall constituency.
When asked about the issue on Tuesday, First Minister Arlene Foster said Mr Lyons took the decision based on the “evidence and law that he has looked”.
“I know that others take contrary views in relation to that, but that has been the position when other decisions have been taken by ministers in the past which have had to be taken to court and given the determination there” she added.
“The decision still stands until it is overruled by a court.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it was the duty of the executive to implement the protocol.
“It’s clear that any move to change that position would require an executive decision.
“The agriculture minister has yet to bring a proposal to the executive to change the status quo. And if he does so then clearly we will engage in that.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the Brexit deal which prevents a hardening of the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It does that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods.
That has created a new trade border with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Unionists oppose the protocol, arguing that it has damaged internal trade from GB to NI and poses a risk to the future of the UK union.
But anti-Brexit parties in NI say that it must be implemented in full, and that issues should be worked out through joint UK-EU processes.