DUP secretly warned against demand for Northern Ireland trade deal, letter reveals

The Democratic Unionist Party has privately warned the UK government that a “dual regulation” environment in Northern Ireland would not work for key industry groups, despite the idea now being one of its demands to restore devolved government in the region.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told MPs on Wednesday that the party wants EU and UK standards to apply simultaneously in Northern Ireland in order for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new deal on the region’s post-Brexit trade deals to be acceptable. for the Unionists. .

But Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s chief whip at Westminster and one of the party’s most vocal critics of the Windsor framework agreement, admitted in a letter to UK ministers last September that important commercial interest groups such as farmers were not interested in such a regime.

“The big issue raised by the Ulster Farmers’ Union is the area of ​​double regulation,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Defra’s farming department seen by the Financial Times, adding that the idea “raises our concerns”. .

See also  Kim Jong Un shifts nuclear coverage to permit pre-emptive strikes

He explained that farmers in Northern Ireland always choose to comply with EU rules for commercial reasons, as this gives them equal access to UK and EU markets.

“In order to keep their customers happy, they need to comply with EU regulations, even if the milk or beef is ultimately not allowed to enter the EU,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson, the DUP and the UFU did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under the Windsor framework, which London says offers unparalleled economic opportunities for the region, industrial and food producers in Northern Ireland must comply with EU rules to enter the EU’s single market. The UK internal market also accepts EU standard goods.

The idea of ​​a ‘dual regulatory’ framework for Northern Ireland was proposed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which was replaced by Sunak’s Windsor framework.

The Democratic Unionist Party on Wednesday voted in favor of a framework that would leave Northern Ireland under EU rules on goods, saying it needed “clarification, revision and change” to protect the region’s place in the UK.

See also  Use Apple Vision Pro: bring your metaverse to life

But London said he wouldn’t. “There is nothing left to get out of. . . trial. It has happened,” UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said on Thursday.

Donaldson, who has been boycotting Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive at Stormont since May over the Brexit dispute, will give a verdict on the framework at the end of the month after a panel he appointed follows reports on unionist views.

But he insisted in Westminster on Wednesday: “I don’t accept a situation where every business in my constituency has to comply with EU rules, even if they don’t sell a single gadget to the EU. This is wrong because it hurts our position in the UK internal market.”

But British officials say the DUP has yet to provide specific examples of where the requirement to comply with EU rules has prevented Northern Irish companies from trading with the UK.

Trade groups say their members overwhelmingly support the Windsor framework. The Northern Ireland dairy industry, for example, sends milk to the Republic of Ireland for processing and said a dual regulatory system would not work.

See also  PwC sees alternative to poach workers throughout EY break up

Stephen Kelly, head of industry body Manufacturing NI, said 90 per cent of the region’s 4,640 manufacturing companies already comply with EU rules because they export to Ireland and other EU countries.

Despite DUP defiance, Irish News/Institute of Irish Studies – University of Liverpool poll released this week He found 45 percent support for the Windsor framework – only 16.9 percent of voters actively opposed the deal – and the remaining 38.1 percent had a neutral or undeclared opinion.

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/3acc0a30-253b-4f66-8034-96d8ac8313f7