FOSTER: UK Government shouldn't be distracted by calls to extend Brexit transition period

By Aine McMahon, PA

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster has said the British Government should not be "distracted" by talks of extending the Brexit transition period.

The UK Government has insisted the transition period will not be extended beyond 2020, despite officials in London and Brussels admitting there has been little progress in the two rounds of formal talks held so far.

December 31 is the deadline for the end of the transition period unless the UK agrees by June to extend it.

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mrs Foster said: "At the moment we are talking to the Government about Brexit. We have a very particular issue around the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol. We have been engaging with the Paymaster and Michael Gove around that issue.

"It is important that we get clarity for our businesses in Northern Ireland.

"We should not be distracted by talk of lengthening the transition or anything like that. We need to make sure that we are focused and that we get started for the sake of our businesses in Northern Ireland."

On Friday, Deputy Irish Premier Simon Coveney said the Covid-19 pandemic has made the timeline for a UK-EU trade deal "virtually impossible".

"Covid-19 has made what is already a very, very difficult timeline to get agreement virtually impossible," he said.

"Given the added complications of Covid-19, it surely makes sense to seek a bit more time to navigate our way through these very difficult waters in the months ahead so that we can get a good outcome for the UK and EU."

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