Northern Ireland

Council accepts Irish Sea border grant following UUP U-turn

Checks on goods coming from GB are required under the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Checks on goods coming from GB are required under the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Ards and North Down Borough Council is to accept a £55,000 grant to facilitate Brexit Irish Sea border regulations, following a U-turn by UUP reps.

At the recent full meeting of the council, members agreed to accept the funding from the UK's Department for Business & Trade after a tight vote.

At a previous meeting of the council's Community and Wellbeing Committee, DUP, UUP and independent unionist members had voted against a recommendation to accept the grant.

The funding is offered to help all councils in Northern Ireland fund staff posts to undertake a wide range of activities including checks on non-food products, including those required as a result of new Irish Sea border regulations under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The checks are required by all councils, whether the funding is accepted or not, and had Ards and North Down not accepted the grant, the funding would have to be found elsewhere at a cost to ratepayers.

Read more:

  • Windsor Framework: All you need to know as the green and red lane system starts
  • Regulations ‘another piece of Irish Sea border superstructure', DUP warns
  • NI Protocol deal removes any sense of a border in Irish Sea, says Rishi Sunak

Two UUP councillors abstained from the vote, while the remaining six UUP reps joined Alliance, Green Party, the SDLP and an independent councillor in agreeing to reverse the earlier committee decision and accept the grant.

DUP councillors and two independent unionists voted against it, but lost when the amendment passed by 21 votes to 15.

UUP Alderman Philip Smith was told by the council's chief executive Stephen Reid that nine out of the 10 other councils in the north had accepted the grant.

"We know there is an issue here around the NI Protocol and the Windsor Framework. These are small elements, but are still outworkings of that. Myself and many around this table are opposed to many aspects of those frameworks," Alderman Smith said.

“However, the decision we make tonight will not stop that policy, will not end the Protocol and will not make any difference to the Windsor Framework."

He added: “This decision won’t make one iota of difference to the Windsor Framework, but what it will make a difference towards is the service we provide to our residents and the budget we set for our ratepayers."