EU anti-fraud investigators allowed to operate in Northern Ireland, UK, under peace funds agreement | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european

European Union anti-fraud investigators will be able to operate in Northern Ireland under an agreement releasing just over than £1bn in peace building funds over the next five years.

OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, was granted the power to carry out on-the-spot checks and inspections under an agreement between the UK, the Republic and the European Commission.

Members of the House of Lords, in a report on the Peace Plus finance agreement, noted the “political sensitivities” and raised concerns over what they described as the “poor level of detail in which the Government…describes the implications of the provisions”.

“These provisions, designed to enforce the management of the programme’s funds, raise a series of complex legal and constitutional questions,” the report by the European Affairs Committee stated.

“We call on the Government to provide clarity on the implications of these provisions as a matter of urgency. 

“We also invite the Government to clarify if these arrangements are present in other agreements involving the use of EU funds by organisations and individuals operating in third countries.”

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The committee, which drew up its report with input from the Sub-Committee on the Northern Ireland Protocol, noted the agreement “appears to provide OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud body….powers to act extra-territorially within the UK by, for example, undertaking on-the-spot checks and inspections”.

Provisions in the agreement do give OLAF powers to operate in the UK, along with EU auditors and other officials.

The £1.01bn Peace Plus programme, originally to operate from 2021 but 2027, is largely funded by the UK government, which will contribute £730m, including £150m from the Executive. Ireland and the EU will pay the balance of approximately £270m.

It is the latest tranche of money aimed at building peace and stability with previous rounds dating back to the 1990s funding projects across the north and the Republic’s border counties. Previously, there were majority-funded by the EU but following Brexit this could no longer be continued.

Baroness O’Loan, the former Police Ombudsman, who sits on the protocol sub-committee, said she is “happy enough” that EU anti-fraud investigators will be working in the north.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan. Picture by Declan Roughan
“It is a lot of EU money to be accountable for particularly since it is very, very important the money is spent as allocated,” Baroness O’Loan said.

In a letter to the committee, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said the Government had “secured critical UK objectives within the agreement as set out in the mandate for negotiations”, 

These included “parity for the UK Government crest to appear alongside the EU emblem” in  promotional material and communications.

There was agreement that disputes will be resolved via international arbitration, that EU regulations that need to be followed will only apply during the life of the programme and that there is a no-fault termination clause for the agreement.

The report also asked the UK government “to explain what, if any, impact the Northern Ireland Budget Statement 2023–24 will have on the financing of the PEACE PLUS Programme”.

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