A selection of electrical goods sold in Northern Ireland will continue to bear the EU flag on energy efficiency labels despite the rest of the UK moving to the Union flag, it has emerged.
The symbol currently appears on a number of appliances, including fridges and televisions.
According to the Daily Telegraph, such items will continue to carry the EU flag because of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said the issue was the latest example of how the agreement was cutting Northern Ireland off from the rest of the UK.
“The very fact it will be an EU flag, although we’ve supposedly left the EU, is an illustration of how we’re treated differently,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“What we need to do is ensure that EU legislation no longer applies to Northern Ireland, except where we are exporting goods to the EU and we have to abide by their regulations, just as we have to with the US.
“Why are we going to finish up with a situation where everyone who buys a washing machine or a fridge finds themselves buying something which is designed to meet EU requirements rather than the UK’s regulations?”
The East Antrim MP also highlighted recent changes made by the Treasury meaning that boat owners who use their vessels for leisure will be banned from fuelling them with cheap red diesel while sailing in Northern Ireland. There will be no such prohibition on boat owners in the rest of the UK.
UUP leader Steve Aiken said the labelling issue raised concerns around the possibility of the EU diverging from the UK on product standards in the future, leading to knock-on effects for Northern Ireland.
“We could end up with UK goods not being acceptable in Northern Ireland,” the South Antrim MLA said.
“The protocol was supposed to be about protecting trade, but yet again it’s being expanded out to areas that nobody expected.
“It just underlines what a ridiculous and absurd thing the protocol is.”
Mr Aiken also pointed out that UK was “moving rapidly” towards net zero carbon emissions.
“The UK is looking to increase environmental standards, which will probably outpace those of the EU before long. Does that mean Northern Ireland has to have lower standards than the rest of our nation?” he asked.
TUV leader Jim Allister said he had raised the labelling matter with Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
“It’s part of the fact that we are under EU laws that we didn’t make and can’t change. British laws that are made within the UK can’t apply to us,” the North Antrim MLA said.
“The issue is a manifestation that the laws made under it don’t apply to us. The laws that apply to us are made under the EU flag. That’s the constitutional issue at the heart of the protocol.”
Westminster announced new energy efficiency legislation last Thursday, mirroring the system introduced in the EU.
It means products in the UK and the EU have to meet the same standards. Only the labelling is affected.
The UK labels are identical to their EU counterparts, only they have a Union flag in the top left corner instead of an EU one.
“The changes will provide more accurate information on energy efficiency, incentivising manufacturers to go further,” the Government said.
“They are also designed to encourage consumers to buy more energy-efficient products and boost people’s confidence in the environmental credentials of the products they are buying.
“Now the UK is an independent nation outside the EU, the EU emblem on energy efficiency labels has been replaced with the Union flag.”
A separate spokesperson confirmed Northern Ireland would continue to follow EU rules on energy labelling.
They said the protocol was a “unique solution” that would uphold the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard Northern Ireland’s “integral place” in the UK.
The agreement has caused widespread anger in the unionist community, triggering a push to overturn the protocol.
The Loyalist Communities Council, which represents groups including the UVF and UDA, has withdrawn its support for the Good Friday Agreement over the dispute.