Westminster to intervene if no Northern Ireland deal agreed: Brokenshire
The Secretary of State has warned that without a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein Northern Ireland is on a "glide path" toward greater Westminster intervention.
James Brokenshire said he still believed an agreement to restore power-sharing was possible but if it didn't happen the Government would have to step in and pass a budget next month.
Sinn Fein responded by claiming that the approach of "successive Tory Governments" had contributed to the Executive's collapse.
Speaking to business leaders at Queen's University, Belfast, last night, Mr Brokenshire said: "If things don't change we are on a glide path to greater UK Government intervention. But I believe we can change course.
"This can be achieved with political leadership and with support of the people of Northern Ireland - including communities and businesses.
"There is much at stake. Risks, yes. But also so many opportunities, because I firmly believe in the huge unlocked potential there is right across Northern Ireland."
Mr Brokenshire said local parties "must come together and reach agreement in the short window of time that remains".
He stated: "If this does not happen within a short number of weeks, we risk greater political decision-making from Westminster - starting with provision for a 2017-18 budget this autumn.
"This is not what anyone wants and would profoundly be a step back, not a step forward.
"But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the UK - and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that."
The Secretary of State said "intensive dialogue" between the DUP and Sinn Fein was ongoing.
"These discussions have been constructive and I'm hopeful that further progress will be made as they continue," he said.
"The issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined. But difference remains... ultimately we cannot force an agreement. That has to come from the parties themselves."
Mr Brokenshire said it was in the interests of "growth, prosperity and the people of Northern Ireland" for power-sharing to return.
"For nine months government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants, rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make," he said.
"This has meant there has been no political direction to tackle the fundamental challenges facing Northern Ireland, including the reform and transformation of critical public services.
"We believe in devolution. It is right that decisions over services - like health, education and economic development - are taken by politicians in locally accountable political institutions."
Mr Brokenshire said he welcomed "the growing voice of businesses, trade unions, the voluntary sector and others in stressing the need for the return of devolved government".
He told the assembled business leaders: "We all want to see the parties come together and form an Executive.
"They need to hear from you about just how important it is for you to see them working together for the good of Northern Ireland."
He said restoring power-sharing would get "the devolution of corporation tax back on track to enable Northern Ireland to cut its rates to attract investment and jobs".
Responding to the Secretary of State, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy last night said: "James Brokenshire's time would be better spent implementing the aspects of the agreements for which he has responsibility and acting with rigorous impartiality than threatening the talks process.
"The approach of successive Tory Governments in playing fast and loose with the agreements has contributed to the collapse of the Executive.
"They are part of the problem and (must) act to fully implement their commitments."