THE NORTHERN Ireland Government have voted in favour of further delaying the Brexit transition period, citing "extreme pressure" from the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain's exit from the European Union has been at the forefront of British politics since the controversial referendum which took place four years ago, slipping back into the sidelines only when the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe.
Despite the virus, however, the British Government is still holding talks with the European Union; the UK left the EU on 31 January and is now in an 11-month transition period where it still effectively remains in the EU's customs union and single market.
The UK and EU are in the fourth rounds of talks regarding a post-Brexit trade deal, but the pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, and the deadline to extend the transition period is fast approaching.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed any and all calls to extend the transition period, having risen to power on a platform that insisted he would "Get Brexit Done", but now the Government in Northern Ireland has voted in favour of a further extension.
The vote, undertaken in Stormont yesterday, calls for 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."
“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”.
While the motion is not legally binding, it sends a strong message to Westminster from the political parties in Northern Ireland, having passed by 50 - 38 votes.
SDLP member Matthew O'Toole, who proposed the motion, took to Twitter after the motion passed where he said:
"That’s it. The NI Assembly has passed a motion calling for a transition extension until we get through the Covid crisis. For the past 3 years the UK government said it wanted to listen to NI’s representatives.
"We’ve spoken – over to them.”
A similar non-binding vote took place in Stormont yesterday evening where the Assembly voted by 46-40 to reject the new abortion laws which came into effect in Northern Ireland in March.