SINN Féin MLA Declan McAleer has expressed serious concern that an independent review on DAERA’s Brexit preparation has issued a red status warning which requires urgent intervention.
The chair of the Assembly’s AERA committee said: “At last week’s AERA committee we received a briefing from the Permanent Secretary, who is also responsible for the department’s transition programme, that it will be a monumental challenge to have the North’s ports of entry ready by January 1, and not everything will be in place for 2021.
“In June, we received a report from the department that the progress status was red/amber but the issue has now become more acute and this will cause major concern for local businesses who will be the unfortunate collateral damage of this process.
“The scale of this is huge, and chief vet Robert Huey explained that of the 200 loads of foodstuff entering the North each day for local supermarkets, each lorry could have up to 400 separate products that need individually certified.
“This will create massive pressure on local businesses, the ports, ferries and the haulage industry.
“The cost of getting our ports ready will be in the region of £40 million and work is underway in terms of sourcing land, buildings and planning but according to the senior officials there are physical constraints on some of the sites.
“I believe that there is a clear lack of leadership in the department whereby the Minister has stated his opposition to port plans moving ahead, effectively handing over responsibility to the senior responsible officer and his team who are working under the most intense pressure to meet legal requirements and deliver a Minimal Viable Product.
“This is an unmitigated mess brought about by a Brexit decision we did not consent to, made worse by an Internal Market Bill that the Assembly has rejected and a Minister who is not giving leadership to his senior officials at such a critical time.”