Great Britain

Remain PLOT: Politicians fury over ‘despicable’ attempt to delay Brexit for years

The Northern Ireland Assembly is set to debate a proposal this week calling for the UK government to extend the Brexit period due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal was submitted by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

Since the devolution of Stormont, for the last three years, the government in Northern Ireland has yet to have a “substantive debate on Brexit”,
according to SDLP Brexit spokesperson Matthew O’Toole.

But Sammy Wilson, the Brexit spokesperson for the DUP, dismissed the debate saying it won’t matter since Westminster will decide whether or not to extend Brexit.

Mr Wilson slammed the SDLP proposal calling it “despicable” for “trying to use the health crisis as a means to pursue their political agenda on
Europe”.

He told the News Letter: “First of all, I’m not surprised at all by the SDLP for the simple reason that the SDLP don’t want use to leave the European Union and will use every excuse to try and find a way of stopping us.

DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson

DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson (Image: Getty)

Stormont to debate Brexit extension this week

Stormont to debate extending Brexit this week (Image: Getty)

“What I find particularly despicable is that they are trying to use the health crisis that we are facing as a means to pursue their political agenda on Europe.

“Secondly, not only is it a political move, but it is also an illogical move.

“What do you gain by delaying? The most urgency you put into this the
more likely it is that you will get the EU to move in the negotiations.”

The MP for East Antrim explained how the EU is currently facing “massive issues” due to the fallout of the virus and how other countries are “concerned by the way” coronavirus has been handled.

READ MORE: Ireland PANIC: Dublin admit UK won't back down on Brexit

Northern Ireland border control main Brexit issue

Northern Ireland border control main Brexit issue (Image: Getty)

He continued: “Clearly there are massive issues that the EU now has to face with the fallout from the virus, the impact that it’s having on economies across Europe, the fact that they now find themselves in a situation where some of the different countries are concerned by the way coronavirus has been handled by the EU.

“The last thing they need is for prolonged Brexit negotiations to distract their attention from the problems they have to deal with.

“That is a massive opportunity for the government to secure a deal that ensures trade will continue tariff-free.”

Mr Wilson called the debate “irrelevant” and said the decision will be made in London and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is aiming for a deadline of December 31.

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Negotiations on EU-UK trade deal

Negotiations on EU-UK trade deal in Northern Ireland (Image: Express)

However, Mr O’Toole believes the debate will allow all members of the Assembly to have the opportunity to support an extension period.

He said: “Whether you’re a fierce opponent of Brexit or its greatest cheerleader, it’s plain to see that no administration on these islands has the bandwidth to conclude these negotiations while attempting to manage the most significant public health crisis in living memory.

“It simply cannot be done.

“The motion we have proposed in the Assembly seeks to give all parties the opportunity to support a call for an extension to the transition period in the best interests of people, businesses and communities in Northern Ireland.”

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary of State

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis (Image: Getty)

The UK formally left the EU on January 31 and at that point, there was an agreement over the terms for its departure from the bloc.

The government has until the end of this year to negotiate an agreement on future ties or start 2021 without a trade agreement, which some businesses say could cause costly delays and confusion at borders.

Issues surrounding border control in Northern Ireland were reignited earlier this month.

During a debate last week, Britain said it saw no need for new customs infrastructure with Northern Ireland as it unveiled new proposals for border control with the province.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The government has until the end of this year to negotiate an agreement on future ties (Image: Getty)

The EU says the Northern Ireland protocol requires customs checks and controls on some goods coming from mainland Britain into the province in case they were headed further into Ireland and the bloc's single market.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said, that while the government will comply with the obligations set out in the protocol, it does not see that entailing new checks on goods, saying it already complies with requirements for live animals and agrifoods.

But officials say there will have to be some additional checkpoints, and the EU has become increasingly critical of London's refusal to explain how they would deal with the border.

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