Great Britain

Brexit delay: Northern Irish assembly votes in favour of two-year delay - 'We've spoken!'

The assembly has passed a motion demanding the UK government requests an extension to the Brexit transition period. They have put the blame on the “extreme challenges” of the coronavirus pandemic as they have pointed out that complex border checks can not be implemented when the UK is in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Downing Street said the UK would refuse to extend the Brexit transition period, even if the EU requests a delay. Downing Street has warned an extension would "prolong the delay and uncertainty" surrounding Brexit.

The formal deadline for extending the 11-month transition period is at the end of June.

Boris Johnson has been adamant in the past the government will not extend the negotiations and risk the possibility of the UK leaving the single market at the end of 2020 if a trade deal is not reached.

The Stormant motion calls on the UK government “to request, and the European Union to agree, an extension of the current Brexit transition period beyond 31 December 2020 in order that businesses have adequate time to prepare for the implementation of new arrangements".

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It said: “This Assembly notes its unique role as a named party to the UK-EU withdrawal agreement and the unique impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland; further notes the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and the extreme challenges facing businesses and workers."

Matthew O’Toole, SDLP’s Brexit spokesman, who proposed the motion, said: “That’s it.

“The NI Assembly has passed a motion calling for a transition extension until we get through the Covid crisis.

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"For the past 3 years the UK government said it wanted to listen to NI’s representatives.

“We’ve spoken – over to them.

“Some will say, ‘What is the point of this motion? Boris Johnston and his gang will do whatever they want. Stormont is irrelevant’. Except that last part is not true.

“At the insistence of Boris Johnston's government, the Northern Ireland Assembly is a named party to the withdrawal agreement. That is unique.

“The Scottish Parliament is not mentioned; the Welsh Assembly is not mentioned; Dáil Éireann is not mentioned; the Bundestag is not mentioned; but we are.”

Former Tory MP David Lidington has said that a six month extension period is inevitable due to the pandemic.

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