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Tuesday 19 March 2019

PM raises threat of direct rule for North

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Stock picture

Steven Swinford

Theresa May has raised the prospect of imposing direct rule in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit as ministers sought to win the DUP's backing for her deal.

At a cabinet meeting yesterday, the UK prime minister suggested that no deal would require her government to invoke direct rule to pass legislation. The DUP has repeatedly called for the reintroduction of direct rule to allow for decisions to be taken in the absence of an assembly.

It came as the government launched a charm offensive to win over the DUP.

Discussions are taking place over whether the Vienna Convention can be used to ensure that the UK is not trapped in the Irish backstop.

Article 62 of the convention allows for the termination of a treaty in certain circumstances. Geoffrey Cox, the British attorney general, is said to be examining the plans.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the ERG group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, asked in the Commons earlier this week "how article 62 of the Vienna Convention could be used".

In the Commons, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said the UK could be forced to take the "grave steps" of imposing direct rule in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Northern Ireland was ruled directly from Westminster between 1972 and 1999, when the new power-sharing assembly was established. Direct rule has not been reintroduced to resolve an impasse preventing the power-sharing assembly, despite the fact that Northern Ireland has been without an executive since 2017. Critics in the North have already said that direct rule exists "in all but name".

Karen Bradley, the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary, has passed two budget bills for Northern Ireland through the Commons. The UK government has repeatedly insisted that its priority remains restoring devolution.

Irish Independent

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