The EU has been given a six-week deadline to come to an agreement with the UK on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced that the Government will be introducing legislation to extend the deadline for elections to the Stormont Assembly. An election was triggered in Stormont after the executive was blocked from meeting due to the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The devolved government has not fully functioned since February, with the DUP blocking the formation of the ruling executive.
Addressing the House of Commons today, Mr Heaton-Harris said he would introduce new legislation to extend the deadline for an election by six weeks, with an option for a further six-week extension if the situation is not resolved by the December deadline.
This means the latest an assembly election can be held is April 13.
Mr Heaton-Harris said Stormont’s failure to form a Government was “hugely disappointing”.
He said that the “vast majority” of people he has spoken to think an election would be “most unwelcome”.
The MP told the House of Commons: “I have a legal duty to call an election that few want and everyone tells me will accomplish nothing.
“Thus, I will be introducing legislation to provide a short, straightforward extension to the period for executive formation, extending the current period by 6 weeks until 8 December with the potential for a further six-week extension to 19 January if necessary.
“This aims to create the time and space needed for talks between the UK government and the European Commission to develop.
“And for the Northern Ireland parties to work together to restore the devolved institutions as soon as possible.”
MORE TO FOLLOW…