DUP Stormont attempt to veto new EU law applying in Northern Ireland a 'stunt', SDLP claims

A DUP attempt to veto a new EU law applying in Northern Ireland by using one of the democratic consent processes in the Windsor Framework is a “stunt”, the SDLP has claimed.

The unionist party is to use an applicability motion at Stormont on Tuesday to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products.

Under the rules of the Windsor Framework, a deal agreed by the UK Government to allay unionist concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements, some EU laws still apply in Northern Ireland.

The framework contains mechanisms by which the Stormont Assembly can object to or consent to new or amended regulations.

One of these is the applicability motion.

The DUP is to bring the motion on Tuesday, proposing that the new law, which means legally defining and protecting certain products which are tied to a geographical area, should be applied to Northern Ireland.

DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson said the vote would be a ‘watershed moment’ for the Assembly Credit: Niall Carson/PA

However, its MLAs will vote against the motion they have introduced, with party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stating it would “substantially expand EU intellectual property law in Northern Ireland”.

Sir Jeffrey said the vote is a “watershed moment” for the Assembly.

He said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

The DUP leader said the UK Government can only adopt the new EU regulation in Northern Ireland with the consent of both unionists and nationalists voting in the Assembly.

Stormont Opposition leader Matthew O’Toole said the DUP motion was a ‘stunt’ Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

But SDLP Stormont leader Matthew O’Toole accused the DUP of being in a rush to “prove their anti-EU machismo”.

He added: “The DUP’s stunt in blocking Northern Ireland participation in new protections for craft manufacturing could have real world consequences for our amazing craft producers.

“Should the DUP succeed in blocking the applicability motion tomorrow, the SDLP opposition will make representations to the (Westminster) Joint Committee that the new law should apply to Northern Ireland and no credible concerns about east-west disruptions have been articulated set against the very real potential harm to local craft producers.”

If the applicability motion does not pass the Assembly with cross-community consent, the UK Government would be expected to veto the new EU law unless a minister considers it does not create a new regulatory border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or if exceptional circumstances apply.

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