Scottish ministers have halted the construction of a customs checkpoint started as a consequence of Brexit because they say Westminster has so far declined to pay for it.
A border control post (BCP) at Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway is due to be used to inspect goods arriving in Scotland from Ireland and the wider EU via Northern Ireland.
Checks on animals, fish, plants, food and feed are required to ensure products entering the market do not present a risk to public health, and these checks are the responsibility of Scottish ministers.
Work began on the checkpoint last autumn to “apply devolved controls, protecting human, animal and plant health, on EU goods arriving into Scotland” from ferry routes from Belfast and Larne in Co Antrim, said Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.
But Ms Gougeon said she has now ordered construction work to stop because the UK Government has not given assurances it will cover the cost “under its EU exit commitments”.
She has also cited “the enduring uncertainty surrounding the UK Government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol” and has called for “greater clarity” before work can recommence.
Ms Gougeon said: “Scotland did not vote to leave the EU, but the UK’s departure means that there is now a trade border between Scotland and the EU.
“Over the past few months, we have sought assurances from the UK Government regarding the funding for the Cairnryan BCP, which is required to be built as a direct result of EU Exit and the effect of its approach to guaranteeing access for Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain on transiting EU goods.
“We are pressing the UK Government to cover the costs of the border facility including the BCP under its EU-Exit commitments.
“The UK Government has declined to provide us with the necessary assurances.
“With some major uncertainties to be resolved that are not within the control of the Scottish Government, we have made the decision to pause elements of this project until we are in a position to proceed with confidence in the requirements and the financial position.
“We will continue to engage with all UK Government departments to ensure that the development of Cairnryan BCP can resume at pace in due course, but we need to have clarity on this.”
The UK wants to rewrite the protocol, which avoids a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the European Union’s single market for goods.
That has led to trade barriers for goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain and the UK Government and EU remain locked in negotiations over trading difficulties.
The Scottish Government has said that 2.59 million tonnes of freight entered the ports at Cairnryan and Lochryan in 2019, which equates to approximately 400,000 freight movements.
An alternative route for these goods would need to be found if a BCP is not provided at Cairnryan.