Assembly to debate first applicability motion on new EU law

DUP leader Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has confirmed that his Party has tabled a motion (the applicability motion) which will give the Northern Ireland Assembly the first opportunity to vote on whether a new EU law should apply in Northern Ireland.

This is a significant moment.

It comes after the DUP secured legal protections preventing the Government from automatically adding new EU rules to the Protocol/Windsor Framework in the absence of cross-community consent.

Commenting, Sir Jeffrey said,

‘‘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.”

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