Belfast Telegraph

May urged to exclude parties not willing to restore Northern Ireland power sharing

UUP says power-sharing must be restored day after Brexit or full direct rule imposed

By Jonathan Bell

Theresa May has been told Northern Ireland power-sharing must be restored or direct rule imposed the day after Brexit - and if parties are against restoring the Stormont institutions they should be excluded.

The Prime Minister is meeting with the five main political parties at Stormont on Wednesday to discuss Brexit and the Irish border backstop.

It comes after she met business leaders on Tuesday and reiterated her "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border. She also denied "shafting" those who had supported her on her backstop plan instead saying she would be seeking changes to the so-called insurance measure.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Robin Swann (left) and his party colleagues John Stewart (centre) and Doug Beattie arrive at Stormont for talks with the Prime Minister. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The UUP was the first to meet with Theresa May.

Leader Robin Swann said the Conservative leader was reluctant to talk about the ongoing power-sharing impasse and they "had to drag her to a place were we actually started to talk about how we get these institutions back up and running".

Before the meeting he told waiting press if there was a no-deal Brexit on the UK's departure from the UK in 50 days time, direct rule had to be implemented.

"Come the 30th of March Northern Ireland needs political guidance and political leadership and that's what me made clear to the Prime Minister," he said.

"And what we made clear to her as well. If there are parties who do not want to engage in the restoration of power sharing then let them stay outside.

"Let them stay away from the table but open up talks to the parties who are interested or who are willing."

He added: "If we are coming out with no deal with no Executive, we need direct rule for Northern Ireland, the manufacturing industry needs direction, our agrifood industry needs direction, we need some sort of political leadership in Northern Ireland.”

Ahead of their meeting Sinn Fein said the would be setting out that the backstop was the bottom line.

"Mrs May will be left in no doubt there can be no hard border in Ireland and we will set all of that out to her very, very clearly," said Mary Lou McDonald.

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