In Brief

Northern Ireland talks: UK prepares for direct rule over Stormont

DUP’s £1bn deal with Tories on hold if power-sharing not restored

Britain is planning to take over Northern Ireland’s budget as hopes for a last-minute power-sharing deal fade, ten months after Stormont’s coalition executive collapsed.

If a budget is imposed by London, “it would be the closest Northern Ireland has come to a return to direct rule in a decade”, says Reuters. Without an agreement, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) would also have to wait for the £1bn in extra funding promised by Theresa May under the terms of a coalition deal to prop up the Conservative government, the Financial Times reports.

A budget imposed from London would simply execute the fiscal programme settled for Belfast before the DUP/Conservative deal. The £1bn funding would be released only if a power-sharing executive is restored or if London imposes full-blown direct rule, the FT says.

Although neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein was talking publicly at Stormont, experts say a row over the status of the Irish language highlights fundamental divisions that have risen to the fore in the shadow of Brexit. 

“The clocks moved back at the weekend and so too did politics in Northern Ireland,” says the BBC’s Enda McClafferty. “The gulf between the DUP and Sinn Fein has widened and the finger-pointing has started.”

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since the coalition executive collapsed in January.

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