Belfast Telegraph

MPs tell Bradley to stop stalling over Stormont

By Michael McHugh

The Northern Ireland Secretary has been told to quit dithering and restart power-sharing talks by an influential committee of MPs.

The NI Affairs Committee at Westminster said Karen Bradley should increase the tempo of ministerial decision making and urged her to bring forward proposals for progress before the summer recess.

The warning came as Ms Bradley yesterday promised to seek the best Brexit deal for Northern Ireland after meetings with businesses about the Irish border.

Committee chairman Dr Andrew Murrison said: "Karen Bradley is right to make restoring power-sharing devolved government in Stormont her first priority. However, while the political impasse continues the list of policy obstructions and project delays grows and becomes more serious."

Civil servants have taken over day-to-day running of public services. But a Belfast High Court judgment earlier this month blocked an incinerator plan because a senior civil servant did not have the power to approve the planning application.

Dr Murrison added: "This month's High Court judgment means inactivity in ministerial decision making, which to date has been perfectly understandable, is fast becoming untenable."

And UUP leader Robin Swann said: "The Government cannot continue to dither as they attempt to spare the blushes of some parties here. While local politicians should be the ones making decisions on behalf of local people, the UK Government has a responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland too."

Ms Bradley, who was recently criticised for the lack of time she spends in Northern Ireland, yesterday visited a cement factory in Co Fermanagh and the chief executives of local authorities which adjoin the frontier.

On Sunday, her Brexit and Business Secretary colleagues David Davis and Greg Clark joined her in Belfast for meetings with 14 organisations as they explored a technological solution to cross-border trade to minimise the need for customs checks after the divorce.

The potential impact of regulatory differences on North-South commerce in Ireland is central to negotiations on a pact ahead of next year's withdrawal from the EU.

Ms Bradley said: "The thing I need to do is get on and do the job to make sure that we get the right Brexit, the right deal for the people of Northern Ireland and that we continue to build on the United Kingdom and all that we do as a united country."

The Prime Minister has split her ministers into two teams as they work towards a reconciliation on how to manage arrangements with the EU after the exit.

Ms Bradley, Mr Davis and Mr Clark are part of a group considering "maximum facilitation", a solution based on using technology to minimise the need for customs checks after Brexit.

Ms Bradley said: "This is really so that I can test how maximum facilitation could be made to work and whether it can be made to work for Northern Ireland."

She said she had been presented with lots of ideas and thoughts.

"My job as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is how do we get it right for Northern Ireland."

Another group established by the Prime Minister, featuring Brexiteers Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Remain-backing Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, is considering a "customs partnership" whereby the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU without the need for new border checks.

Belfast Telegraph

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