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Stormont 'must push Brexit transition extension'

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Concerns: Matthew O’Toole

Concerns: Matthew O’Toole

Concerns: Matthew O’Toole

Northern Ireland's political leaders have been urged to pressure the UK Government to extend the Brexit transition period.

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said it would be "reckless if not immoral" not to seek an extension.

He wants it pushed back for two more years.

Under the withdrawal agreement, the UK will continue to follow EU rules until December 31, by which time both sides say they hope to have agreed a trade deal.

However, the coronavirus crisis has led to calls for that deadline to be moved back.

On March 30 the PM's spokesman insisted there were no plans to change the timetable.

However, Mr O'Toole, the SDLP's Brexit spokesman, has written to the First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill urging them to formally request an extension.

He said the primary focus must be on saving lives and there is no capacity to secure a new economic relationship.

Mr O'Toole, a South Belfast MLA, said: "In the middle of a global health emergency, it's absolutely right that the priority of administrations in London, Belfast and Brussels is to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and save lives.

"In the circumstances we face, to continue with the current policy of insisting that the transition period must end this year is reckless if not immoral. There simply is no capacity to negotiate a new economic relationship with the current pressures on governments.

"Neither will there be space to conclude those negotiations during a recovery and reconstruction period in a few months.

"I have written to the First and Deputy First Minister today urging them to jointly request that London seek to extend the Brexit transition period for two years."

The Executive Office was contacted for comment.

Belfast Telegraph