Stormont election likely if executive not formed by October 28th

Chris Heaton-Harris said he cannot ‘see the space’ for emergency legislation to potentially avert a fresh poll.
Stormont election likely if executive not formed by October 28th

By Rebecca Black, PA

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has restated his intention to call a Stormont Assembly if the executive is not reformed by October 28th.

Devolved government in the region has been in flux across the year, and current legislation requires Mr Heaton-Harris to call a fresh election if an executive is not formed by October 28.

Mr Heaton-Harris said he “can’t see the space” for any emergency legislation to potentially avert the move.

Appearing at the Northern Ireland Affairs committee on Tuesday, Mr Heaton-Harris said he had discussed the ongoing paralysis at Stormont with his Cabinet colleagues earlier that day.

“If we do not get a reformed executive by one minute past midnight on the 28th of October, I will be calling an election, that’s what the law requires me to do, and that is what I will be doing,” he told MPs.

“I know that lots of people really do not see or do not want that to happen but it is a legislative requirement.”

He said he “can’t see the space” for any emergency legislation.

He added: “The best solution would be having an executive up and running, without a shadow of a doubt.

“If we come back and people choose not to go into positions … actually I think almost immediately the ministers fall away and it gives me a few tough decisions to make which I’d much rather not be taking, but I’m fully cognisant of some of the issues that I’ve been reading about in the newspapers, being told about by real folk in real streets on real doorsteps that they’re facing.

“Lots of things would be a lot easier if the executive were running and so my focus is trying to charm, beguile, coax everybody into that place, that they come back into the executive, and I’d like to think I will be successful, but if I’m not then I’m afraid it is an election.”

The DUP is blocking the functioning of the powersharing institutions in Belfast as part of its protest against the Brexit protocol which has created barriers on the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UK government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either through a negotiated compromise with the EU or domestic legislation to empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.

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