Naomi Long's East Belfast successor may not even see inside Stormont
NAOMI Long will "automatically stop" being an assembly member following her election to the European Parliament.
It was unclear last night who her successor will be in the East Belfast constituency, but they will be co-opted from within the Alliance Party.
The assembly's co-option system was introduced as part of the d'Hondt system, because holding a by-election could change the party political balance within a six-member constituency.
It particularly safeguards smaller parties as if a member was to step down any subsequent by-election would be likely to be won by the dominant party within that constituency.
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Mrs Long will next month be part of Europe-wide negotiations as MEP's attempt to form political groups for the up-coming ninth term of the parliament.
On June 24 they will then `notify their composition', with the eighth term formally ending on July 1 and the newly-elected parliament having its plenary session the following day.
An election for European Commission president will take place on July 11.
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As things stand, the UK is due to leave the European Union at 11pm on October 31.
If the UK and EU ratify the withdrawal agreement before then, the UK will leave on the first day of the following month.
Meanwhile, in the absence of an agreement between the north's main political parties, there is a chance Mrs Long's successor could not see the inside of Stormont before she returns from Brussels following a UK exit.