O'Toole: DUP applicability motion stunt could cost NI craft producers

dup matthew o'toole Applicability motion

The DUP's use of an applicability motion to try to block Nothern Ireland's participation in an EU scheme to promote local craft manufacturing is a stunt that will limit opportunities for local producers, SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole has said.

The new EU law creates a scheme to recognise local craft manufactured products - hugely valued for their contribution to tourism and international reputation - in the same way as locally produced specialist food products such as Parma Ham or Irish grass-fed beef.

If tomorrow's applicability motion is blocked by the DUP and UUP then the potential for participating in hugely valuable new product protection schemes will be lost to local companies. This will not only limit their ability to grow their exports in the EU single market of half a billion customers, but could jeopardise their ability to hold onto existing market share, including if products from the South achieve preferential designation.

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. There are also potential ramifications for our producers' access to vital retail opportunities not just on the continent but south of the border. If a national craft protection were created for Irish linen, on the lines for the all island wide GI for Irish whiskey and grass-fed beef, then linen produced in the North could not be included, leading to a farcical situation where linen produced in the Lagan Valley, the home of Irish linen, would be excluded from marketing itself as Irish linen in shops on Grafton Street or Dublin Airport.

The SDLP will be supporting the application of the new law creating GIs for craft producers - and if it is blocked the Opposition will encourage other parties to write to the joint committee to ask that its application in NI proceeds.

Matthew O'Toole MLA said:

"In the rush to prove their anti-EU machismo, the DUP's stunt in blocking NI participation in new protections for craft manufacturing could have real world consequences for our amazing craft producers.

"Not only will they lose out on the additional protections and marketing opportunities across the EU single market of half a billion, but if wider craft designations were created, such as Irish linen, products from the North would have to be excluded from using those terms when selling their products across the EU. This could mean damaging loss of trade, not just in Paris or Milan but especially in the vital tourist retail centres of Dublin City centre and Dublin Airport. The fact that the MP for Lagan Valley, the home of Irish linen, hasn't thought through these potential consequences is concerning.

"This stunt is more about Jim Allister than supporting NI producers. Should the DUP succeed in blocking the applicability motion tomorrow, the SDLP Opposition will make representations to the Joint Committee that the new law should apply to NI and no credible concerns about east-west disruptions have been articulated set against the very real potential harm to local craft producers."

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