DUP applicability motion to block new EU law to be debated in Assembly tomorrow

The DUP has tabled an applicability motion to be debated on a new EU regulation with Donaldson calling it a 'watershed moment', whilst the SDLP call it a 'stunt'.

Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has confirmed that the DUP will use an applicability motion to allow the Assembly to vote on a new EU law and whether or not it should apply in Northern Ireland.

As part of the Windsor Framework, which the UK Government and DUP agreed last year, the Assembly can object to or agree to new or updated EU regulations that could apply in Northern Ireland.

Regulation 2023/2411 introduces geographical indication (GI) protection for craft and industrial products.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said that this is a watershed moment as if the Assembly were to withhold consent for this rule it would practically demonstrate that we have removed the democratic deficit within our devolved context

The motion is to be debated in the Assembly shortly after midday tomorrow, Tuesday 19 March.

‘‘EU Regulation 2023/2411 would substantially expand EU intellectual property law in Northern Ireland. That could have serious implications for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and mean new checks at our ports. That is not only harmful to our economy but a threat to the United Kingdom internal market as a whole.

Throughout our negotiations the DUP made it a key objective to tackle the democratic deficit created by the Protocol. Our opponents claimed this would be impossible, yet the new arrangements we have secured from the Government give local elected representatives a say on whether new EU rules and regulations should apply in Northern Ireland. Dynamic Alignment has ended. In what represented tangible and meaningful change to the Northern Ireland Protocol under the Stormont Brake, changed EU regulations will also no longer automatically apply in Northern Ireland.

Additionally the legal position with respect to new areas of EU law is clear. The UK Government can only add this new EU regulation to the scope of the Framework with the express consent of both unionists and nationalists voting in the Assembly. However, we are not willing to contemplate a situation in which political forces in Dublin and Brussels can use the silence of the Assembly on this or any other piece of EU law to exert pressure on the Government at Westminster to abandon the principle of cross-community consensus.

Although the required procedure necessitates that such a motion is brought to the Assembly in the affirmative, there is no doubt about our motivation. It is only a means to an end. We will vote decisively against the motion and against the imposition of this EU regulation.

This is a watershed moment. A decision by the Assembly to withhold consent for this new EU rule will practically demonstrate that we have removed the democratic deficit within our devolved context.

I respectfully disagree with those who feel the progress we achieved to date does not go far enough to restore our place in the United Kingdom. Had Unionism not banked the gains the DUP has achieved in the past two years and more, the reality is that this act would have been foisted on Northern Ireland with absolutely no role whatsoever for those who are democratically elected to our devolved institutions. No vote and no say.

That is the path to the further erosion of our interests. Under the arrangements we have insisted on, and which we are now triggering, Unionists will no longer will be powerless when it comes to preventing the application of EU law that is damaging to their economic rights within the UK. That can only be positive development.

We trust that others will join us in using this democratic mechanism and vote against this new EU measure to demonstrate opposition to it being applied in Northern Ireland thus ensuring the protection of our ability to trade with the rest of the U.K.”

– Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP leader

However, the leader of the opposition, Matthew O’Toole has claimed that the DUP’s motion is “a stunt”.

This stunt isn’t just a stunt: it’s a bad idea for local craft producers who, if the DUP successfully block the new EU GI scheme in NI, will lose out on a unique opportunity to market themselves in the world’s largest single market – all to placate hardline unionism…

The new EU GI regulation for craft and industrial products might seem technical but effectively if applied in NI – as proposed by the EU – it would allow craft producers in NI to apply to have products registered as protected in terms of geographic origin and characteristics…

Much like the long-established food and drink GI scheme, which protects everything from Champagne to Comber spuds. It would allow local craft producers (eg woollens, linens, ceramics) to apply to have products protected for marketing to the EU single market of half a billion…

The upshot is: why wouldn’t we participate in this scheme? It’s another practical benefit of the EU single market. We also have established all-island designations for both Irish whiskey and only this year Irish beef (the latter lobbied for by the UFU).

Should be there be an application to protect Irish linen overall with a GI, the DUP action would prevent northen linen (famously produced in.. eh.. Lagan Valley) from participating. This would be very damaging for the competitiveness of NI goods excluded…

And since the Irish craft market (woollens, linen, silverware etc) is such a major part of our all Ireland tourism offer, new GU designations excluding northern producers wouldn’t just harm their exports to continent, it might damage sales in Grafton st or Dublin Airport…

Since the rest of island would be participating in scheme. There are a range of craft products where it is very possible to see GIs emerge that disadvantage northern producers if they simply can’t participate. This won’t move GDP in major ways but why penalise craft producers?

If the DUP claim is that there is a new GB-NI disruption, what is it exactly? It can hardly be more than marginal and not worth the real loss of a single market benefit. Should the DUP successfully block this tomorrow, the Opposition will write to the UKG and Joint Committee to make clear this is not a reasonable or defensible use of the applicability motion. Again, this stunt highlights that the bilateral, clandestine process was never about the NI economy. It was about hardline unionism’s internal psychodrama

– Matthew O’Toole, leader of the opposition

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