20/12/2021

Other News In Brief

Lord Frost Resignation Opportunity For More Constructive Approach – Alliance

The resignation of Lord Frost as the UK's Brexit negotiator should be an opportunity for a more pragmatic and constructive approach, Alliance Party Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry, has said.

Mr Farry said: "It is far from clear what the true reasons for David Frost's resignation as the UK's Brexit negotiator. But it does come in the context of an apparent softening of the rhetoric on Article 16 and redlines around the role of the European Court of Justice.

"While it remains to be seen who will now be appointed to this role, hopefully we see a less confrontational and more realistic approach around the Protocol. We should build on momentum from the breakthrough on medicines and find pragmatic solutions to the other challenges. Unionist politicians need to de-escalate their rhetoric of pulling out of institutions.

"By contrast, any hardening of the UK approach, including the triggering of Article 16, would be a dead-end, but would only entail huge damage for Northern Ireland politically and economically, and bring a destructive trade war for the UK.

"There is simply no escaping from the Brexit law of physics. Any hard Brexit will require special arrangements for Northern Ireland. But in recognising that we must do all we can to ease the burden of checks and the level of friction, alongside taking advantage of the relative opportunities from dual market access."

Green Party Welcomes Equality Commission Investigation Into Spend Local Scheme

The Green Party NI has welcomed the new that the Equality Commission has opened an investigation into the Department of the Economy's Spend Local Scheme.

Rachel Woods, MLA for North Down said: "It's unfair that 16- and 17-year-olds were excluded from the Spend Local scheme, especially as many of them have worked during the pandemic in low-paid retail or hospitality jobs, and would have benefitted from the ability to participate.
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"The Children's Law Centre has said that the Department of the Economy had failed to carry out an equality screening exercise on the scheme before a complaint was made. I welcome the announcement of an investigation by the Equality Commission to establish if due process was followed. It's vital that the public can have confidence that the Executive will ensure that equality considerations are of paramount concern in policy-making.

"The Spend Local scheme has had a number of significant flaws, with many of my constituents receiving their cards late, or not at all, and many never having heard back from their queries on the helpline. At the weekend, a number reported that their remaining balance was unable to be used before the midnight deadline. The Minister should provide assurances that no-one will miss out due to delays, and that solutions will be found for those affected."

New Carbon Emissions Initiative Announced For Dairy Sector

Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced a new initiative to help tackle carbon emissions within the dairy sector.

The voluntary programme of carbon benchmarks on Business Development Group (BDG) dairy farms will start in 2022.

Minister Poots said: "I am delighted to announce that a dairy carbon audits programme has been established in conjunction with the dairy companies, led by the Dairy Council Northern Ireland and CAFRE.

"From next year BDG dairy farmers in Northern Ireland can take part in the programme which will enhance our understanding of carbon emissions within the sector and how to reduce them."

Minister Poots said the carbon audits align with the Green Growth Strategy which DAERA is progressing on behalf of the Executive.

"Green Growth means using the move from a high to a low greenhouse gas emissions society to improve people’s quality of life through green jobs and a clean, resilient environment. And that is exactly what we intend to do. The consultation period on the draft strategy remains open until 21 December 2021 and I would encourage everyone to take part.

"This new carbon benchmarks programme is an excellent example of collaborative working and I commend the Dairy Council and CAFRE for it. I would strongly encourage all eligible dairy farmers to get involved in the programme and together we can, we will and we must make the changes necessary for a greener future," added Minister Poots.

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