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Brexit process must be extended, says Blair

Alliance MLA John Blair has reiterated the Party’s call for an extension to the Brexit implementation process, adding such a move was “essential” as self-imposed, unfeasible deadlines where was approaching.

Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Blair said the challenging timeframe of just one year was always going to be tough to meet – made all the more difficult by the on-going coronavirus pandemic, making the already rushed through process impossible to deliver.

He added: “It was always going to be hard to negotiate comprehensive future relationship agreement in just one year. Coronavirus has meant all focus has been turned to dealing with the crisis, but this leaves an extensive list of questions surrounding Brexit unanswered.

“Yet, time has continued to pass and self-imposed deadlines loom ever closer. An extension to the transition period is, therefore, essential, to ensure that any systems and mechanisms put in place are workable and have been thought out and scrutinised to the best of our collective ability.

“It’s been clear to many for some time that new infrastructure will be required to check goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain – a concession the UK Government finally acknowledged last month, leaving it until only a few months before the supposed end of the transition period to even acknowledge their necessity.

“With limited detail, this issue alone is enough to seek an extension so any measures can go through a series of checks before the green light is given – and that’s even before we think about her future immigration policies will impact our agri-food industry.

“Extending the transition period is the only way to give us time and breathing space to create mechanisms to minimise the impact of leaving the EU and to reduce economic and social disruption.”