First motion on extension of EU law to Northern Ireland defeated at Stormont

Proposed regulation would create ‘new regulatory border within the UK’, DUP says as party votes against law

The first motion on extending a new EU law to Northern Ireland has been defeated at the Stormont Assembly.

The DUP’s Jonathan Buckley said his party voted against introducing a law which he insisted would create a “new regulatory border within the United Kingdom”.

However, Sinn Féin described the debate brought by the unionist party as a “sham fight” and said the Assembly should be concentrating on bringing new investors to Northern Ireland.

The DUP brought the applicability motion to the Assembly to vote on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products.


Under the rules of the Windsor Framework, a deal agreed 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 consent to new or amended regulations.

One of these is the applicability motion. Under this arrangement, the UK will not automatically agree to new EU laws being applied in Northern Ireland unless the Assembly passes the motion, with cross-community consent.

The motion debated on Tuesday proposed that a regulation legally defining and protecting certain products which are tied to a geographical area should be applied to Northern Ireland.

The motion fell after failing to secure cross-community consent when unionists voted against it.

It now falls on the UK government to decide whether the new law should be introduced in Northern Ireland.

Introducing the motion, Mr Buckley said: “This is the first time the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on whether a new EU law should apply in Northern Ireland.

“That in itself is a significant moment.”

Explaining that his party would be voting against its own motion, Mr Buckley added: “It is clear to the Democratic Unionist Party that this new EU law would create a new regulatory border within the United Kingdom.”

He added: “We are not willing to contemplate a situation in which political forces, whether it be in Dublin or Brussels, can use the silence of the Assembly on this, or indeed any other piece of EU law, to exert pressure on the government in Westminster to abandon the principle of cross-community consensus.”

Responding on behalf of Sinn Féin, Philip McGuigan pointed out that last week a number of Stormont Ministers were in the United States promoting Northern Ireland.

“What we should be doing today is building on the success of that trip, talking up our potential and giving our young people hope,” McGuigan said.

“Instead, we have this motion. In effect a sham fight which only serves the purpose of undermining the good work of last week and which could sow confusion to potential investors to the North.

“Dual market access is the key selling point to attract potential investment to the North.”

Alliance Party MLA Sorcha Eastwood said the Assembly was debating “internal DUP wranglings”.

“This is going to be a compressed mandate. We already have short enough time as it is, I don’t want to be spending the next 2½ to three years relitigating Brexit,” Ms Eastwood said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said his party’s MLAs would be voting against the motion because the new EU law had not been given proper scrutiny.

“What are the long-term implications of this EU regulation? We don’t know because there’s been no scrutiny,” Mr Beattie said.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party’s Matthew O’Toole said the proposed new regulations were a good thing for craft producers, giving them a “potential advantage”.

Mr O’Toole said his party would seek to urge the UK-EU joint committee, the body that oversees the working of the Windsor Framework, to allow the law to apply to Northern Ireland.

Earlier on Tuesday, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland the DUP believed the regulation would “create significant problems with our ability to market our products in Great Britain, which is our biggest market”.

“We sell over £12 billion (€14 billion) worth of goods to Britain every year, which is significantly smaller than what we sell to the EU,” Mr Donaldson said.

“So in all of these things, one has to make judgments. And, our assessment is that to adopt this law would create significant problems in terms of access to our supply chains in Great Britain and our ability to market certain products as well.”

Mr Donaldson gave the example of textiles imported into Northern Ireland: “Under these regulations, it may not be possible then to, promote that garment in a certain way, because it includes textiles that have come in from other areas; that’s what the whole geographical indicators are about.

“So, on the basis of our assessment, we feel that we should utilise the mechanisms that were agreed between the EU and the UK government and which created for the first time a democratic say in these matters. Let’s not forget that under the Northern Ireland protocol, Stormont had no say whatsoever.

“Stormont has a say, and on this occasion, we feel that, in order to protect our industry in Northern Ireland, this law shouldn’t apply.”

Mr Donaldson rejected criticism by SDLP Stormont leader Matthew O’Toole that the DUP position was “a publicity stunt”. If that was the best the opposition could do, then they were not doing their job, he said.

“Their job is to ensure that the laws applying in Northern Ireland are for the benefit of people in Northern Ireland, that they work for our industry, that they work for our communities. And I’m afraid that kind of language really doesn’t impress anyone.”

When asked if the DUP was going to object to all new EU laws in relation to Northern Ireland, Mr Donaldson said the party would assess each law on its own merits.

“There is a democratic scrutiny committee that has now been established at Stormont, thanks to the negotiations that were undertaken by the DUP. And it is the role of that committee to assess the potential impact that any such law will have. So we will take it on a case-by-case basis.” – Additional reporting by PA

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter