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Talks to restore powersharing to be extended until after general election

Crisis talks at Stormont aimed at restoring powersharing are to be extended to after the general election.

It is understood parties will be given three weeks after the June 8 poll to reach a deal.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire, who had set early May as the deadline for the current talks process, is expected to announce a stretch in the negotiating period on Friday.

Sources involved in the negotiations have said that provisions to form an executive by that date will be included in emergency legislation that will be fast tracked through Westminster.

The Government is to publish legislation to deal with rates and budget matters on Friday.

News of the extra time to reach a deal followed another day of discussions between Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments.

After her party's meeting with Mr Brokenshire, Alliance leader Naomi Long said she did not expect fresh Assembly elections would be held on June 8 to coincide with the Westminster contest.

She said that she believed the talks process would be "stretched" instead.

She added: "It would be better for people in Northern Ireland, for public services and for business confidence, to get an agreement before the general election.

"However, in real terms, I have to say that looks difficult because people are never in compromising mode when it comes to any election, let alone a general election which is shaping up to be quite a polarising one."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said he expected the talks process deadline to be pushed to June.

Earlier in the day Sinn Fein accused the British Government of wanting powersharing in Northern Ireland to fail.

Michelle O'Neill, leader of the party in the region, said the prime minister did not want a Stormont executive that would stand against Brexit.

"There is a growing belief out there among the wider nationalist community that the government don't want a powersharing executive to work here," said Ms O'Neill.

She added: "They don't want an executive that is going to take a firm stand against Brexit because obviously the majority of people here voted to remain in the European Union.

"So on June 8 the public will have the opportunity to have their say and they have to make their message clear to Theresa May that we are not for Brexit, we are not for a border and we are not for Tory cuts."

Stormont's parties have yet to reach agreement on forming an executive six weeks after the assembly election.

The region's two largest parties, and former powersharing partners, the DUP and Sinn Fein, have spent weeks blaming each for the failure to restore the institutions.

Long-running rows over a proposed Irish language act and deep divisions over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are holding up a deal.

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