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Northern Ireland 'heading for direct rule' in bid to aid Brexit

The Times yesterday reported that Westminster would take back the reins within the next three months in order to deliver Brexit. (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Times yesterday reported that Westminster would take back the reins within the next three months in order to deliver Brexit. (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The new Prime Minister will reintroduce direct rule in Northern Ireland in the autumn, it has been claimed.

The Times yesterday reported that Westminster would take back the reins within the next three months in order to deliver Brexit.

The newspaper said that senior Tories believed only a delay to the UK leaving the EU would stop the move if power-sharing isn't restored here.

It reported increasing fears among senior civil servants that they were being asked to make decisions that once were taken by ministers.

Decisions on security and economic matters in particular will become more complex and increasingly political after Brexit.

A cabinet source was quoted as saying: "If Stormont is not back then who will make the decisions on processes?

"Not the Civil Service. It will have to be direct rule or Brexit will have to be put back again.

"It can't be delivered without something in place. This needs to be done by October and is an incentive for the DUP in particular to get on with talks."

Another senior Government figure confirmed to the newspaper that direct rule would need to be implemented or Stormont restored before October to ensure that Westminster was ready for Brexit.

The Northern Ireland Office could not be contacted by the Belfast Telegraph for comment yesterday.

The Executive collapsed in January 2017 during the cash-for-ash scandal.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill have all warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to the return of direct rule.

While unionists have said the current political limbo cannot continue indefinitely, nationalists are strongly opposed to Westminster taking back all control.

The Government has intervened on several occasions, setting a budget for Northern Ireland, appointing new Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson, and reappointing Attorney General John Larkin.

Last week MPs voted to legalise equal marriage and liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion law if the Assembly has not sat by October 21.

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