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What will happen in next stage of talks?

By Noel McAdam

Early January: the five parties who hammered out the Stormont House Agreement have to sell the deal to the wider membership.

The DUP and Sinn Fein leaderships have already said they will recommend the proposals to their respective executives - and have the numbers in the Executive and Assembly to push proposals through.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt will ask his executive to give the package a fair wind while the SDLP and Alliance may be more nuanced, since both believe a more comprehensive deal on parades and flags should have been reached.

Mid/late January: The Executive has to agree a Budget for the extra year by which the Stormont Assembly has been extended.

Despite the £2bn from the Government in pledges and loans, departments will still be left implementing cuts which are the result of reductions to the block grant over the last five years. There will be major rows. The five Executive parties may have reached a deal, but all is not sweetness and light between them - and the May Westminster election is looming.

End of January: The British and Irish governments are to hold the first of their planned quarterly meetings to review progress of the Stormont House deal, and the first meeting is expected to produce an implementation timetable. Six monthly updates will be published.

February: The North-South Ministerial Council is to set out a list of new priorities for north-south co-operation, which have been in discussion for more than 12 months.

March: The Assembly is to put in place arrangements for an Opposition, although it is by no means clear which parties might form it. Ulster Unionists and elements of the SDLP have voiced interest in an Opposition but may not want to give up the limited power they have as part of the five-party Executive.

The Stormont deal says parties entitled to ministerial positions but which "choose not to take them up ... to be recognised as official opposition" with financial assistance and speaking rights.

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