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We're pushing hard for a political deal, insists James Brokenshire

The British government is focused on returning Northern Ireland's powersharing institutions as soon as possible, UK Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said.

On day two of a 10-day negotiation period between Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments, Mr Brokenshire said that devolved government was vital for industrial and economic success.

He called on members of the business community to encourage political parties "to deliver a functioning and effective Executive so we can continue to build an economy that works for everyone".

Speaking following a meeting with his Business Advisory Group in Belfast, Mr Brokenshire said: "Political stability is a fundamental basis for industrial success.

"Securing strong, stable, devolved institutions in Northern Ireland that will provide leadership, support innovation and boost skills will be integral to delivering on Northern Ireland's potential as a place to invest and do business.

"It is, therefore, vital that devolved government is returned to Northern Ireland as soon as possible and the Government's clear focus is on achieving that."

Party leaders have again met at Stormont Castle for roundtable talks in an effort to strike a deal to resolve the political crisis.

The parties missed last week's deadline for forming a powersharing executive.

Mr Brokenshire has given them until April 18, when Westminster returns after the Easter recess, to reach a deal.

A number of matters related to the divisive issue of legacy were agreed among political parties on Tuesday. However, more contentious Troubles-related issues are set for discussion on Wednesday.

Legacy, an Irish Language Act and Brexit have become major stumbling blocks to the Stormont negotiations.

The SDLP's Colin McGrath said it was too early to predict if this round of talks would be successful.

He added, however, that the roundtable structure of the negotiations was allowing the parties to focus more of their attention on the difficult issues.

"I don't think you can call an outcome to the talks on day two," he said. "The fact all parties are engaging and being open and honest is going to make achieving a solution much easier.

"I think we should take the time to make sure any deal reached is comprehensive and solid. If that takes an extra day or two it is well worth the time.

"I think we should take as long as it reasonably takes to get a solution."

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