Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what legal advice he has sought should he fail to make the preparations required by the Withdrawal Agreement, as requested by the Secretary of State.
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: Legal advice has been sought during various stages of the programme from the Departmental Solicitors Office and from the Attorney General. DSO has advised that the obligation to implement the NI Protocol is on the UK Government, and it has given the Protocol domestic legal effect by section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It has ongoing obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement to create the legal effects set out in it. The Official Controls Regulation (OCR) requirements are part of domestic law as a result of Article 5(4) of the NI Protocol and s. 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Under the OCR, DAERA is responsible for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on certain goods coming into Northern Ireland. DAERA is therefore required by UK domestic law to ensure compliance with its legal duties under the OCR.
The consequences of a failure by the Department to implement its responsibilities may be a judicial review or a claim for damages by affected parties. Furthermore, failure to implement the NI Protocol may result in penalties under the Withdrawal Agreement, to which the UK Government may require the Department to contribute.