London could use the removal of post-Brexit checks on goods in Northern Ireland as a 'pressure point' on EU negotiations.
That's according to political commentator Newton Emerson, who was speaking as the North's agriculture minister ordered all post-Brexit checks on goods at the region's ports be halted as of midnight on Wednesday.
Edwin Poots claims he has been given legal advice supporting his move to "direct the checks to cease in the absence of Executive approval".
The North's Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill, said it was a stunt by the DUP to "unlawfully interfere with domestic and international law".
While Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney urged Mr Poots not to pursue this course of action.
He said: "If a political decision is taken by a minister in Northern Ireland to stop all checks in ports on goods coming across the Irish Sea… that is effectively a breach of international law.
"I would remind everyone that the Protocol is part of an international agreement."
Newton Emerson, who is also a columnist with The Sunday Times, told Newstalk Breakfast the UK government could leave this out there.
"He tried to do it in 2020, and what happened then is officials in London reminded Poots' officials in Belfast that they have to comply with an international agreement.
"The argument that Poots is relying on is that he was required - or the whole Stormont Executive was required - to vote on these checks.
"That's the argument that the loyalists have used: to say these checks should have been put to a vote, they weren't so he can order them to stop."
'The DUP has an election'
But he says while Westminster can override Stormont on this, it is unlikely to do so.
"What happened in 2020 was they didn't even give that order - civil servants just gave a call to Belfast... and said 'You've got to get on with your actual job'.
"The question now is does the [British] government formally override what Poots has done - and it said it won't.
"Or does it, like last time, give a sort of informal reminder to officials - ' you've got to get on with your job'.
"It looks like perhaps they won't do that this time either".
He says this could now end up in the courts.
"There are theories that perhaps they'll leave it to a court to sort out, perhaps they'll leave it to a judge to say that you've got to comply with the protocol.
"I think what's actually going to happen is the government is going to let this sit for a week or two as a pressure point on negotiations.
"Although I don't think the EU's going to be too impressed."
And he adds that this is also being used "to make it look like the DUP is doing something".
"The DUP has to go into an election in a couple of months: it's saying to its supporters 'We've got a protocol deal and DUP action helped to get some concessions for unionists'".