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Northern Ireland Assembly votes against Brexit and trade deal

The decision will have no impact on the deal, which was passed by the House of Commons on Wednesday.


(Peter Morrison/PA)

(Peter Morrison/PA)

(Peter Morrison/PA)

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted against Brexit and the trade deal agreed between the UK Government and the European Union.

The vote will not have any impact ahead of the end of the transition period later this week.

The European Union (Future Relationship) Bill was passed by the House of Commons as MLAs debated in Belfast.

However Stormont speaker Alex Maskey said he will convey the view of the Assembly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

MLAs voted by 47 to 38 in favour of an SDLP-amended motion which rejects Brexit and withholds consent for the legislation.

The Assembly was recalled early from recess by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to allow MLAs the opportunity to have a say on the trade deal announced on Christmas Eve.

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First Minister Arlene Foster moved the original motion which was simply that the Assembly noted the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the UK and the EU.

While MPs from her party voted against it at Westminster, Mrs Foster said the deal is extensive and will require “careful legal scrutiny”.

She said she regretted that MLAs did not have more time to scrutinise the agreement, but added that the Executive felt it was important for MLAs to have their say.


Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)


Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

There was criticism of the deal from each of the parties represented in the Assembly.

Four amendments to the original motion were put forward, which all fell bar the fourth which was proposed by the SDLP.

– The first amendment, proposed by Sinn Fein MLAs, called for the “full implementation of the protocol to mitigate some of the most negative impacts of Brexit”. It fell by 26 votes to 38.

– The second amendment, proposed by UUP leader Steve Aiken, called for safeguards to protect trade for at least a year. It fell by 38 votes to 49.

– The third amendment, proposed by DUP MLAs, called for the Executive to work with the UK Government to “mitigate against those damaging outcomes flowing from the protocol”. It fell by 37 votes to 49.

– The successful SDLP motion rejected Brexit in line with the referendum result in Northern Ireland, called for the implementation of the protocol, for the Assembly to “decline legislative consent to the British Government to impose the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, their inferior trade deal and their Brexit against the will of the people of Northern Ireland”.

The party’s deputy leader Nichola Mallon called on Mr Maskey to make the Assembly’s views known in a letter to the House of Commons Speaker as well as the Prime Minister, which he said he had been planning to do.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill closed the debate noting “widespread difference” across the chamber over Brexit

She called for “clear guidance and communication” ahead of the end of the transition period later this week to minimise impact.

Speaking outside the chamber, Ms Mallon said Stormont had set an “important precedent” which she encouraged the other devolved administrations to follow.

“The British Government must accept that it does not have the support or the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland for their Brexit,” she said.

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