Westminster may be forced to set North’s budget, says Brokenshire

Northern Secretary claims ‘hugely significant step’ may be necessary if no agreement reached

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire: ‘Unless we get an executive in place during the course of this month, I will have to set a budget’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire: ‘Unless we get an executive in place during the course of this month, I will have to set a budget’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Northern Secretary James Brokenshire has warned the British government will have to pass legislation to set a budget for Northern Ireland if agreement on powersharing is not reached this month.

Describing such a move as a “hugely significant step” he said his continued focus was to get Stormont back in place following its collapse in January. While the DUP and Sinn Féin are making “positive noises” he would have to legislate to set a budget if there was no agreement during October.

“Unless we get an executive in place during the course of this month, I will have to set a budget, a hugely significant step for the UK government to have to take in the daily affairs of Northern Ireland,” Mr Brokenshire told BBC Sunday Politics.

In a speech at the opening of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Brokenshire highlighted the party’s support for Northern Ireland’s union with Britain and its commitment to defending the interests of aerospace company Bombardier to safeguard Belfast jobs under threat.

He reiterated the British government’s desire for there to be “no physical infrastructure” along the Border post-Brexit and of his belief that devolution can be restored at Stormont.

“Over the years, the political parties in Northern Ireland have found a way through the issues that have divided them,” he said. “They have shown leadership in resolving hugely challenging and sensitive issues. They have created political stability which has been an example to world.

“As president [Bill] Clinton said to me recently, we just can’t go backwards. So my message to the parties is now is the time to reach agreement.”

Breakfast event

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill are both to address a Conservative Party conference Ulster Fry breakfast event on Tuesday. Bilateral meetings will continue this week at Stormont, but there is no sign of a deal or the commencement of multiparty talks including the five main Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will not be in the North this week as he has commitments in the US. However, Mr Brokenshire is expected to be at Stormont on Monday. On Sunday, while delivering the Ivy Day Parnell commemoration lecture at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “The nationalist people of the North are being badly failed by the strategy currently being pursued by Sinn Féin.

“Nationalism across this island deserves a better strategy than the one which has left us with no Assembly, no North-South structures, no voice in the context of Brexit and is threatening to place us at the mercy of a coalition between the DUP and the Tories at Westminster.

“It deserves a better strategy than the one which left no legacy of substantial economic or social success after 10 years at the top of government.”

The SDLP lost its three Westminster seats earlier this year, one to the DUP and two to Sinn Féin.