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Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

SDLP Brexit Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole MLA has said that the interests of Northern Ireland cannot be jeopardised by the UK Government’s dangerous Brexit negotiating strategy.

Speaking ahead of the first meeting of the Joint Committee on the Ireland Protocol today, the South Belfast MLA said:

“The specialised committee on the Ireland Protocol meets for the first time today. A senior civil servant will attend on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive but as yet we have we have had little public indication of what will be discussed or timetables for implementation. The Assembly has not yet had a single debate or ministerial update on Brexit or the protocol since reforming. This may be understandable in the context of the public health crisis, but given the UK Government’s refusal to countenance extending the transition period, it poses it enormous risk.

“Added to this are real concerns that the UK Government is deliberately running down the clock and stalling on implementation of the protocol because it believes it will generate leverage over the EU. The protocol is designed to protect our island, and is part of a binding legal treaty the UK signed. We cannot simply allow the UK Government to use a public health emergency to drag its feet – especially when it is refusing to countenance an extended transition.

“But the bigger picture is that we are in an unprecedented public health crisis and know that we are entering a deep economic crisis. Governments simply do not have the capacity to negotiate a new trade deal in the coming months. But if the UK simply ends the transition at the end of this year, it will do untold damage to an economy that will at best be recovering from the biggest shock of our lifetimes. It could even jeopardise supply chains for everyone in these islands. Three weeks ago I asked the First and deputy First Ministers to urge the UK to extend the transition and I ask them again today. Let’s make Northern Ireland’s voice heard rather than persisting with the dangerous farce going on at present.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom