NI Assembly to debate Brexit motion for first time


The assembly is expected to debate a motion relating to the legislation that will take the UK out of the EU.

The Executive Office has put forward a motion that asks MLAs to consider the elements of the Brexit bill that affect Northern Ireland.

The Brexit deal includes special arrangements for Northern Ireland.

There is also a role for the assembly in deciding whether NI should keep following some EU customs rules.

The motion asks the assembly to “affirm that the assembly does not agree to give its consent” to that.

Westminster MPs from Northern Ireland had strongly opposed the prime minister’s Brexit deal and all voted against it last month.

Meanwhile, a former secretary of state has said the government’s Brexit plans will do “untold damage” to Northern Ireland businesses.

Labour’s Lord Hain said the government was asking small and medium businesses in Northern Ireland to “buy a pig in a poke”.

He said NI businesses have been told they would just have to adjust to new regulations, but it was still not clear what those would be.

Lord Hain also accused the government of “trying to have it both ways”.

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Lord Hain said the government’s Brexit plans would do untold damage to the Northern Ireland economy

“On the one hand they’re saying to businesses in Northern Ireland and to politicians it’s important that you reform and make the Northern Ireland economy more competitive – fair enough,” he said.

“But then they are imposing enormous shackles on the ability of enterprises to succeed with these uncertain, potentially costly, administerially difficult burdens that they will have to bear for trading across into Great Britain.”

He added: “I don’t think the government is being fair with Northern Ireland – either its businesses or its politicians – by telling them they have to reform and on the other hand making it more difficult for them to do so by weakening the economy.”

After the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, it will enter an 11-month transition period, where it will largely follow EU rules but will not have any representation in the bloc’s institutions.

At the end of the transition period, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods, while the rest of the UK will not.

Additionally, the whole of the UK will leave the EU’s customs union but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU’s customs code at its ports.

This will mean some new checks and processes for goods moving between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

The details of those processes have to be negotiated between the EU and UK and new systems for businesses will have to implemented.

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