Theresa May rules out Brexit delay over North election
British prime minister discusses political impasse with Taoiseach Enda Kenny
British prime minister Theresa May: says she hopes dispute between DUP and Sinn Féin will be resolved by next week. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
British prime minister Theresa May has ruled out delaying the start of formal Brexit talks under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty if the political impasse in Northern Ireland leads to fresh Assembly elections.
She was responding in the House of Commons to a call from the Scottish National Party’s Angus Robertson for the triggering of article 50 to be postponed if the Assembly is dissolved next week.
Mr Robertson suggested that, without an Assembly or Executive, Ms May would be unable to consult properly on the implications of Brexit in the North before her self-imposed deadline of the end of March.
The prime minister said she would continue to hear views from all constituent parts of the United Kingdom through the Joint Ministerial Council and that she hoped the dispute between the DUP and Sinn Féin would be resolved by next week.
“I am clear that, first of all, we want to try to ensure that, within this period of seven days, we can find a resolution to the political situation in Northern Ireland, so that we can to see the Assembly Government continuing,” Ms May said.
“But I am also clear that, in the discussions that we have, it will be possible – it is still the case that Ministers are in place and that, obviously, there are executives in place – that we are still able to take the views of the Northern Ireland people.”
Earlier, the prime minister discussed the political situation in Northern Ireland during a phone call with the Taoiseach. A Downing Street spokesperson said both leaders recognised “the difficulties and seriousness of the situation” and promised to work together to help the parties find a solution.
“The prime minister also said how important it was to make sure that Northern Ireland’s voice and interests are heard as we prepare to leave European Union and how the Northern Ireland Secretary is fully committed to making this happen,” the spokesperson said.
“She added that it was still our intention to hold a Joint Ministerial Committee at the end of the month to bring the devolved nations together in getting the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.”