Permanent customs facilities in Northern Ireland won’t be ready before 2023

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The permanent facilities for the operation of post-Brexit checks at Northern Ireland ports will be delayed by another 2 years, a Stormont committee has been told.

It is yet another example of infrastructure required by Brexit taking longer than expected to construct.

There have already been delays to numerous inland-border facilities, which are thought to have been influential in the UK Government’s decision to postpone customs checks in Great Britain by 6 months.

Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary to Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, confirmed the delay earlier today:

While we’ve already completed the procurement, our current estimate is that the construction will take more than a year, and we do not expect therefore for permanent facilities to be in place, subject to executive approval, before 2023.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the senior official in the Stormont department responsible for the construction said the postponement was a result of the continuing uncertainty related to the the amount of of regulatory inspections that will be required when grace periods on customs checks end.

The mandatory health checks on food and agricultural products are currently being conducted at temporary facilities.

The BBC reports that tenders have been agreed for the work, while compensation payments as high as £300,000 may have to be paid out to contractors as a consequence of the delay.

Much like other ports in the UK, there are concerns regarding the recruitment of vets and customs agents.

At the latest hearing of the aforementioned Stormont committee, Northern Ireland’s chief vet Robert Huey said if there was no agreement between the UK and EU on future simplification of the system after various grace periods, he would need up to 60 vets. That, he said, was “undoable”.

Photo credit: David Dixon / Geograph UK