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Stormont to vote on an extension of EU regulation

Stormont MLAs will get the first opportunity to vote on the extension of a new EU regulation to Northern Ireland later today.

The DUP has pledged to vote against the move.

As it requires cross-community consent, DUP opposition means the regulation will not get the required support from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It will fall to the UK government to decide if it should be introduced.

It can opt to proceed with the regulation or tell the European Union it is not going to introduce it.

If it is vetoed, the EU could opt to take “appropriate remedial measures”.

The proposed regulation would apply a new EU regulation extending a scheme to provide so-called geographical indication protection to craft and industrial products.

Such a scheme already exists for food products like Parma ham and Comber potatoes.

It means growers promoting such products must produce them within a defined geographical area and to a certain standard.

It is considered a useful marketing tool which can add value.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said by voting against it, his party was showing that Northern Ireland was not in lockstep with EU regulation.

He claimed the new regulation would harm Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the UK.

It could mean some products produced to a British standard having to be relabelled before being placed on the Northern Ireland market in order to comply with the EU regulation.

Jeffrey Donaldson says vote against the regulation would show NI was not in lockstep with the EU

As Northern Ireland is a small market there is a possibility that firms would not be prepared to accept the cost of such a move, effectively meaning such products would not be available.

“The DUP has delivered real change to the protocol and ended dynamic alignment to EU law, while our detractors have achieved absolutely nothing.

“Without a functioning Assembly this law would automatically pass and we would have no say whatsoever.”

The SDLP said the DUP position was little more than a “stunt” which could negatively impact businesses who wanted to avail of the scheme.

“With the north being full of amazing family-owned producers in crafts, including textiles, ceramics and woodwork losing participation in this scheme would be a real loss to a part of our economy that is critical to our broader tourist offer and international reputation, especially if the rest of the island is participating.”

The UK government can override the view of the assembly if it takes the view that there are exceptional circumstances or if the introduction of the EU regulation would not materially divert trade or affect the free flow of goods in the UK internal market.

The UK has already published an explanatory memorandum about the regulation coming before the assembly.

It has said it expected low uptake from a limited number of small or medium-sized businesses.

It also assessed that with a similar British trademark scheme already in operation there would be “few” products that could be marketed in Britain but not in Northern Ireland.

The DUP is keen to show its critics within unionism that its negotiations with the UK government over a return to Stormont gave MLAs a much greater say over the application of EU law in Northern Ireland.

The party is under a degree of pressure with news that the Traditional Unionist Voice headed by Jim Allister has agreed a “partnership” with the UK Reform Party to stand agreed candidates in Northern Ireland in an upcoming UK general election.

That could jeopardise a number of existing DUP seats.

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