Britain said on Thursday that checks on agri-food entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK were a matter for the devolved executive, following the province's agriculture minister's announcement that they would be suspended starting at midnight on Wednesday, a decision Dublin and some government partners criticised as unlawful.

Edwin Poots, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which opposes the Northern Ireland protocol mandating such inspections, cited legal advice that the procedures should not have been implemented without regional government permission.

The protocol was intended to avoid politically contentious border checks between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, but it has effectively created a border in the Irish Sea, infuriating pro-British unionists and prompting London to seek to rewrite the agreement it signed before leaving the EU in 2020.

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"The advice determined that in the absence of executive authorisation, I can direct the checks to be stopped. I have now given a formal instruction to suspend all checks that were not in place on December 31, 2020, as of midnight tonight" Poots stated. His decision has no effect on the protocol's non-agricultural checks.

If Poots follows through, he will effectively violate international law, according to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, and it will be "very unhelpful" to months of efforts by London and Brussels to remove many of the checks.

A British government spokesperson said, "The operation of checks is an issue for the Northern Ireland Executive."

"We have been consistently clear that the Protocol has significant flaws that must be fixed quickly, which is why we are in intensive talks with the EU to find solutions. Tomorrow, the Foreign Secretary will speak with Maroš Šefčovič again."