EU officials withdrawn from Northern Ireland ports following threats to staff from loyalists

EU officials are being withdrawn from ports in Northern Ireland following threats to staff from loyalists, in a further blow to the Brexit deal.

Brussels said it was adopting the stance taken by local councils, warning: “We have asked them not to attend their duties today and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

UK food inspections were suddenly suspended at Belfast and Larne ports following an “upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour in recent weeks”.

Graffiti has appeared attacking the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol – which has created a customs border in the Irish Sea – and describing port staff as “targets”.

Two loyalist paramilitary groups present a “real and significant threat” in the area, a former Northern Ireland police chief is warning.

The European Commission’s spokesperson, said: “The security of our staff in Northern Ireland is as high a preoccupation as that of any other person working in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the withdrawal agreement.”

In the Commons, Michael Gove blamed the EU for planning to trigger Article 16 to suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol, telling MPs: “Trust has been eroded.”

But Simon Hoare, the Conservative chair of the Commons Northern Ireland Committee, warned the window for resolving the huge trade problems in the Irish Sea was “small and shrinking”.

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