Stormont Assembly set to be recalled to discuss Brexit trade deal

The Stormont Assembly is to be recalled early from its Christmas recess. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled to discuss the Brexit trade deal.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill will write to Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey later to the request the move.

It was agreed during a meeting of the Executive on Monday afternoon.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster will write to the Assembly Speaker to the request the move Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

It is understood the session will take place on Wednesday.

The House of Commons is also set to meet on Wednesday to discuss its reaction to the deal.

The transition period will end on Thursday December 31.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU received a cautious welcome from Northern Ireland’s parties when it was announced on December 24.

Mrs Foster then said details of both the trade deal, as well as other issues including security will be examined.

Ms O’Neill also said her party wanted to examine the detail of the deal.

Speaking after the meeting, Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirmed the Assembly is expected to sit on Wednesday.

“I asked for the opportunity for the Assembly to have a chance to discuss the agreement that has been reached, the implications for here, to reaffirm our opposition because the majority of MLAs in the Assembly opposed leaving the European Union,” the Sinn Fein MLA told the BBC.

“I think it important that all of the MLAs do get the opportunity to debate this and to have their say, and I don’t doubt we will be coming back to further issues in relation to the outworkings of this agreement when we get the further detail on it.”

DUP, Alliance and SDLP to vote against Brexit deal

Most of Northern Ireland's 18 MPs are not expected to back the Brexit trade deal.

The DUP said its eight MPs will vote against the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU in the House of Commons when it is recalled on Wednesday.

An SDLP spokesman confirmed that its two MPs will also vote against the deal, while the Alliance Party's sole MP, Stephen Farry, said he will not vote for the deal.

The region's remaining seven seats are held by Sinn Fein representatives who have historically never taken their places in the House of Commons.

In a statement, the DUP said its MPs will vote against the deal "as a point of principle", and "not because we supported a no-deal option".

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "Whilst recognising this agreement brings about tariff and quota-free trade between the UK and the EU and thus reducing the impact on the GB to NI trade flows, we still have many negative issues arising from the Protocol.

"On that basis we will vote against this agreement. We will continue to work to mitigate the worst excesses of the separate Northern Ireland arrangements whilst exploring new opportunities for Northern Ireland.

"Our challenge going forward will be to press the Government to get a better outcome in those areas where more work is needed.

"These arrangements flowing from the protocol are of course temporary, in that the Northern Ireland Assembly will have the opportunity to revisit the protocol and vote upon it in four years' time."

Mr Farry said he will discuss the vote with other opposition parties, but confirmed he will not back it.

"This is a hard version of Brexit, and this is going to have massive consequences for Northern Ireland in terms of loss of opportunities and loss of benefits that we currently have," he told the BBC.

"I'm not going to give legitimacy to what is in effect a hard Brexit, a Tory Brexit.

"At this stage I am going to talk over with other opposition parties to see exactly what is the best approach to take through legislation that we haven't yet seen."

  • Our correspondent Sharon O'Neill reports: