Belfast Telegraph

Theresa Villiers still hopeful on deal to end deadlock

By Noel McAdam

The Secretary of State has said she is hopeful that a political deal to break the Stormont impasse will be reached next week as the talks hit make-or-break time.

But Theresa Villiers told BBC NI's The View last night that she would not go so far as to say that a deal is "probable".

The Chipping Barnet MP said: "I think a deal is possible... next week is crucial. We can't go on indefinitely with this process.

"I think the pressures will grow such that it becomes much more difficult beyond next week to get a successful outcome.

"There are some very difficult problems still to be resolved. Failure to do so would be a very serious political outcome. But I approach next week with a degree of hope."

Meanwhile, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness may travel to London in the next few weeks to push for an £800m package from the British and Irish governments, it has emerged.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister could be accompanied on the trip by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and Alliance leader David Ford, according to reports.

But Ulster Unionist boss Mike Nesbitt appears likely to opt out.

A final decision on the journey, which might also involve Taoiseach Enda Kenny travelling to London, is expected to be taken early next week after Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams returns from the United States.

It is also anticipated that while there would be no immediate response from the two Governments, they could come back with a reduced offer, perhaps in the region of £500m.

The document being drawn up between the parties has been referred to as "the big ask".

Both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness had last week indicated that the negotiations should conclude in "days not weeks".

However, the discussions are now expected to continue into next week.

Belfast Telegraph


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