Northern Ireland news

Controversy over UK Internal Market Bill masks 'power grab over devolved powers' says Stephen Farry

Stephen Farry said the UK Internal Market Bill was a 'power grab' . Picture by Mal McCann

ALLIANCE deputy leader Stephen Farry has described the UK Internal Market Bill as a "power grab over devolved powers".

The North Down MP is the latest politician to voice concern about how the controversial legislation will impact on the devolved administrations in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Earlier this week Stormont infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon and her counterparts in Scotland and Wales raised the bill's potential erosion of regional power in a letter to Whitehall minister Grant Shapps.

Finance minister Conor Murphy also said on Thursday that the proposed legislation's wide-ranging powers “could have huge implications for the Good Friday Agreement” and said the British government “should not interfere” in funding matters that are currently the responsibility of the devolved administrations.

Mr Farry told The Irish News that the implications of the UK Internal Market Bill for devolution were "masked by the more immediate controversies around the undermining of the Withdrawal Agreement and threats to breach of international law".

"As a result of Brexit, there is an argument for a framework to manage the UK internal market to replace the EU single market. However, the UK legislation constitutes an unnecessary, overly centralised approach," he said.

"Indeed, it potentially gives the government the capacity to take decisions and spend resources in what should be the devolved space."

The Alliance MP echoed Mr Murphy's concerns around the pending Shared Prosperity Fund, which would replace EU Structural Funds.

"Previously, the devolved regions had the capacity to take their own decisions on projects and programmes but there are growing fears that Westminster is seeking to control these resources going forward," he said.

"Over this past week in parliament, it has been quite shocking to see the levels of ignorance on the basics of devolution from some on the Conservative benches."

He described the Internal Market Bill as a "power grab over devolved powers".

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