Belfast Telegraph

Keep talking, Brokenshire tells parties as he heads off on holiday

By Noel McAdam

Secretary of State James Brokenshire heads off on his holidays today - after urging the Stormont parties to maintain contact ahead of new talks.

But some party sources have indicated the negotiations will not resume until early September, rather than later this month as Mr Brokenshire had hoped.

One source said "logistics" would prevent meaningful talks from getting under way before next month.

A spokesman for Mr Brokenshire, who begins his break today, said he had encouraged the five main Assembly parties to "keep going" in contacts over recent days.

Last week, Mr Brokenshire said he was considering a number of options to attempt to inject momentum into the talks, which smashed through another deadline in June.

During a visit to the US, Mr Brokenshire said he wanted to create the right climate and context to get "a positive outcome" - sparking speculation the talks could be moved away from Stormont Castle.

"The number of outstanding issues is relatively small, but the differences remain real," the Secretary of State said.

"We need to think carefully because we have made progress and it is important to underline that issues have been narrowed.

"There are always risks around doing something different - as to whether that unpicks or undermines the progress that has already been achieved - but we are thinking carefully and thoughtfully as to what the next steps might need to be, how best to encourage that spirit of compromise and resolution."

But after Sinn Fein met Mr Brokenshire on Monday for a one-off meeting scheduled several weeks ago, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said he had heard "nothing new" from the NI Secretary.

Mr Brokenshire also said business chiefs should continue to voice their demands for a return of the power-sharing Executive, which has not been in place since January.

At a meeting of his Business Advisory Group, which also includes trade bodies and industry experts, Mr Brokenshire said he "urged members to keep using their influence to encourage political parties to deliver a functioning and effective Executive so we can continue to build an economy that works for everyone".

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