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In Article 18 of the revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (an annex to the Withdrawal Agreement), the Northern Irish Assembly is given the ability to consent or deny consent for the continuation of EU Single Market regulatory alignment.

If the protocol comes into effect, when will the first vote occur?

Some of Article 18:

One. Within 2 months before the end of both the initial period and any subsequent period, the United Kingdom shall provide the opportunity for democratic consent in Northern Ireland to the continued application of Articles 5 to 10.

Two. For the purposes of paragraph 1, the United Kingdom shall seek democratic consent in Northern Ireland in a manner consistent with the 1998 Agreement. A decision expressing democratic consent shall be reached strictly in accordance with the unilateral declaration made by the United Kingdom on [DATE], including with respect to the roles of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

Five. For the purposes of this Article, the initial period is the period ending 4 years after the end of the transition period. Where the decision reached in a given period was on the basis of a majority of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, present and voting, the subsequent period is the 4 year period following that period, for as long as Articles 5 to 10 continue to apply. Where the decision reached in a given period had cross-community support, the subsequent period is the 8-year period following that period, for as long as Articles 5 to 10 continue to apply.

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If I got the math right, the transition ends at the end of 2020, so four years after that is 2024, so in October-November 2024 or so (because it is supposed to happen two months before then end of the "period"). A BBC article from Oct 17 confirms 2024 as the year of the first vote.

There's however the possibility to extend the transition

However the UK and EU can jointly agree, on a one-off basis, to extend that period by a further period of ‘up to two-years,’ under Article 132.

So that would push the first NI vote correspondingly.

Sources that indicate 2020 as the year of the first vote (per comments below there are some) probably have not taken into account the mid-October changes in the deal. The initial proposal of Johnson from the beginning of October did stipulate a NI vote before the end of the transition.

  • Yeah, thats what I thought. But... the Express (yeah I know) claimed otherwise. – Ben Oct 29 '19 at 22:40
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    "The Government is proposing “an opportunity for democratic consent” every four years about whether the arrangements should stay in place through a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. The first vote would take place next year, before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 2020." – Ben Oct 29 '19 at 22:42
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    @Ben: the initial Johnson proposal (from early Oct) actually had that initial vote right after the transition. But it was seemingly removed in the the deal agreed mid-October. My guess is that Stormont being currently deadlocked weighed in on that. – Fizz Oct 29 '19 at 22:45
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    @Ben: the "veto" was bit more than just that. The initial Johnson proposal, which the DUP was quite happy with, had two more things: by default if no vote could be organized, the protocol ceased to apply (now that's reversed: it keeps applying unless there is a vote) and it required that both communities agree instead of simple majority. The old proposal is at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/… see the "Fourth, [...]" bold para. – Fizz Oct 29 '19 at 22:58
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    @Ben: see also Junker's reply to that initial plan theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/02/… – Fizz Oct 29 '19 at 23:05

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