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Redouble efforts to settle welfare impasse, says David Cameron

By David Young, PA

Published 24/06/2015

The political situation in Northern Ireland remains
The political situation in Northern Ireland remains "very serious" despite an agreed budget plan that has lessened fears of an imminent collapse of power-sharing, the Government has warned

The political situation in Northern Ireland remains "very serious" despite an agreed budget plan that has lessened fears of an imminent collapse of power-sharing, the Government has warned.

Much more progress is needed before the destabilising impasse over welfare reform is resolved, a spokeswoman for David Cameron said.

The assessment from Downing Street came after Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers briefed the Prime Minister and fellow ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting in London.

Afterwards, the PM's spokeswoman added: "The situation is very serious and clearly much more progress needs to be made. That's why the Prime Minister and Theresa Villiers have been urging the Northern Ireland parties to resolve their differences on this issue and why she will be chairing this meeting on Thursday.

"Our focus at the moment is very much on helping to bring the Northern Ireland parties together and encouraging them to find a solution."

The prospect of the Stormont Executive crashing receded in the short term after Sinn Fein backed a budget plan that effectively pushes the crunch point further down the tracks.

The party has offered "conditional support" to a spending plan, dubbed by some as the "fantasy budget", that commits the Executive to a £600m overspend for the rest of the financial year.

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