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Stormont side-steps street traders shake-up following Brexit verdict

By Noel McAdam

A DUP Minister has axed action to implement EU rules on street trading in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Communities Minister Paul Givan has decided not to introduce new regulations sparked by an EU directive several years ago. His verdict will be welcomed by local councils, and Belfast City Council in particular, which vehemently opposed the new rules.

The exercise was aimed at simplifying the process for applying for, renewing or varying street trading licences.

It is one of the first issues to emerge after the Stormont Executive asked officials across all departments to assess the impact of Brexit in the province.

Councillors in Belfast previously voiced extreme concern that a UK-wide review following the EU directive could result in a "one size fits all" solution to street trading and pedlars.

They warned the 2013 directive would have "catastrophic consequences" in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast, because it would completely undermine a new street trading regime introduced more than a decade earlier to counter serious problems associated with an over-proliferation of street trading in the city.

At that stage there were more than 50 illegal stalls in the city centre daily, "causing obstruction and generally leaving the city centre in a mess - and while many of these traders purported to act as pedlars, the majority actually sold fast food," council chiefs said.

The council was receiving an average 450 complaints a year from businesses, tourists and residents regarding the 'state' of the city centre, and taking a total of around 2,500 prosecutions each year against illegal traders.

"The directive would have given pedlars significant benefits over street traders and would have created the potential for street traders to argue that they are pedlars and therefore do not require a licence," a council statement yesterday explained.

Mr Givan - whose party stood alone among the main Stormont groupings in supporting Brexit - had told the Stormont committee which monitors his department there were ongoing issues emerging, "including, for example, a view around the implementation of new EU directives.

"There is a view that, as a result of what has happened, it may not be necessary to implement the directive.

"It would be welcomed by Belfast City Council and the rest of local government if we did not need to take it forward."

The Minister's department has now confirmed he has decided not to introduce the regulations.

"The European Services Directive was implemented into UK legislation in 2009 with an aim to make it easier for businesses to provide services in all EU member states," a statement from the Department added.

"The Department for Business Innovation and Skills in Westminster identified certain aspects of Northern Ireland law on pedlars and street trading which may fall foul of the directive.

"Joint consultation was undertaken by the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Scottish Government, on draft regulations.

"Ministers in Westminster have decided not to introduce the regulations at this time, due to competing priorities, and Minister Givan decided to take the same approach in Northern Ireland."

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