London plans ‘power grab’ after Brexit

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The London government is pushing a unionist agenda by using Brexit to commandeer powers which should be returned from Brussels to administrations in Belfast and Edinburgh, it has been claimed.

Plans to create a new “internal market” between Britain and the Six Counties once the Brexit transition period ends have been described as a “blatant power grab”.

The return of powers from Brussels after December 31, when the transition period ends, should see the Stormont Assembly receive responsibility in 157 of the 160 areas.

But in an apparent attempt to undermine that, the Westminster government has drawn up plans for new regulations it says are necessary to ensure “seamless” trade under British rule.

The mechanism proposed would enable Westminster to impose a range of its own policies on Stormont, such as lower standards for food safety, animal and plant health, and weaker environmental protections. The move has clashed with the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which says EU regulations should apply on goods traded into the Six Counties.

Sinn Féin accused the British government of “playing reckless games” over Brexit.

South Antrim Assembly member Declan Kearney said that the London government is “neither properly focused upon, or concerned about” addressing concerns about trade under previously agreed procedures.

Mr Kearney also criticised the government for not seeking an extension of the transition period in June as “absolutely wrongheaded”.

Meanwhile, the new 26 County Taoiseach Micheál Martin discussed Brexit at his first meeting in Belfast with the Six County First Minister, DUP leader Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin.

He said it was agreed with Ms Foster and Ms O’Neill that Brexit must not be allowed to damage the “economic fabric of the island”. The two administrations would work together to minimise the economic disruption of Brexit, he said.

It was also agreed to hold a North-South Ministerial Council meeting at the end of this month, the first in more than three years.

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