Coalition politician tried to dilute UK bill aimed at Northern Ireland protocol

One of Northern Ireland’s leading union politicians has lobbied the British government to relax a law that would give British ministers the power to rescind the post-Brexit deal governing trade in Northern Ireland, according to a letter obtained by the Financial Times. Times can see.

The Democratic Unionist Party expressed support for lawrisks unilaterally scrapping the so-called Northern Ireland protocol that has worsened relations between London and Brussels since Brexit.

However, despite the agreement’s condemnation of the protocol, former DUP leader Edwin Poots wrote to the UK government last July, while serving as Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, to argued that the region’s farmers would be better off following the protocol.

The DUP has since May vetoed Northern Ireland’s political institutions to push through their demands for sweeping changes to the post-Brexit trading regime.

Poots on Friday defended its move, arguing that while the protocol was “completely unacceptable”, it was “completely reasonable” to find a way to support farmers.

“There’s nothing wrong with cherry picking,” he told the FT, adding that Northern Ireland needs to “be able to respond to specific situations if necessary”.

Under the protocol agreed in 2019 between the EU and the UK, Northern Ireland continues to follow EU rules on trade in goods to avoid a return to the commercial border on the island of Ireland.

Article 10 of the deal makes Northern Ireland’s agricultural goods and support subject to the EU state aid regime – but the area is grant a generous Exempt £382 million annually on farm subsidies.

In a letter to George Eustice, then the UK’s environment, food and rural secretary, Poots said it was “unacceptable” that the Northern Ireland protocol bill, if enacted, would force The region’s farmers must accept the same agricultural subsidy scheme as the rest of the UK. England.

While noting his “rooted” concerns about the protocol, Poots argued that “as far as agriculture is concerned, state aid arrangements . . . protocol, providing significant policy flexibility to Northern Ireland”.

Since Brexit, EU state aid rules no longer apply to the UK, which, through the Subsidies Control Act, created a separate UK pension scheme that would effective on January 4th.

Poots argues that the new UK regime will be less generous towards Northern Irish farmers than existing arrangements with protocol in place.

He said the UK’s subsidy control regime, when applied to agriculture, would “create significant hardship” for farmers across the country and that “the proposed Northern Ireland protocol bill Export will now extend these difficulties directly to Northern Ireland.”

Poots concludes: “The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is proposing to remove the subsidy control approach we currently have (in operation) and expand [UK’s Subsidy Control Act] (inactive) to Northern Ireland. This is unacceptable and we need a solution.”

Poots said he “can’t remember” getting a response from London. “The Agricultural Policy Framework is compatible with the Northern Ireland Protocol and is designed with that in mind,” said the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture.

“If the Protocol NI Bill proceeds as it is drafted, that would remove the EU State Aid framework and bring NI agriculture into the purview of the UK’s domestic subsidy control regime. Older brother. That poses a different set of requirements and the agricultural policy framework will need to be assessed under this different regime.”

The UK government on Friday said the protocol bill would “address practical issues” in the event that a negotiated solution on the implementation of the Protocol cannot be reached.

The spokesperson added: “The bill will correct unacceptable tax and spending disparities between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country — ensuring businesses can benefit from the support. and the same subsidy across the UK”.

Poots had to resign as agriculture minister at the end of October after the legal deadline to reinstate the Northern Ireland executive was passed. Civil servants are now in charge of running the area, and London said new elections would be held early next year unless the executive branch was reinstated.

A senior industry figure said the protocol has enabled Poots to provide £50m in support to beef and other farmers to help them produce sustainably.

“With this protocol, he can take advantage of the option of putting £50m into those measures,” the person said, adding that farmers in other parts of the UK are jealous. with them. If the bill passes, “we have absolutely no idea what the future policy will be,” he added.

Negotiations between London and Brussels on the protocol have resumed in a more upbeat tone, but foreign secretary James Cleverly this month stressed that both sides have yet to resolve any difficult issues and he “not yet” [to] see a way through.”

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