Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire walks beween venues at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Britain October 3, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY
Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire walks beween venues at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Britain October 3, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY

Belfast — The British government is to begin the process of directly imposing an annual budget for Northern Ireland, after parties there failed to restore the region’s devolved government.

However, Britain’s minister for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, said talks between the parties would continue and if an executive were formed, the budget process could be handed back.

A budget set by the British government would be a major step towards a return to direct rule from London for the first time in a decade, which could destabilise the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland.

"While important progress has been made in discussions between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein towards the establishment of an executive, it has not yet been possible for the parties to reach agreement," Brokenshire said. "I am, therefore, now taking forward the necessary steps that would enable a budget bill to be introduced at Westminster at the appropriate moment in order to protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland."

The talks between the pro-British DUP and Sinn Fein were extended by 24 hours from their original Monday deadline, and then appeared to be extended again to continue on Wednesday.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have shared power for the past decade in a system created following a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence in the province. Sinn Fein pulled out in January, complaining it was not being treated as an equal partner.

Reuters

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