Latest power-sharing deadline in Northern Ireland passes without a breakthrough

The latest deadline to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland has passed with the devolved institutions in Belfast still in cold storage. The UK government has once

again assumed a legal duty to call a snap Assembly election in the region within 12 weeks. Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris made clear he will not make an

announcement about any potential election date for at least several weeks. He has given himself time to consider options in the hope that the Government and EU can strike a

deal in the interim on the issue at the heart of the power-sharing impasse – Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol. If a deal emerges that convinces the DUP to return to

Stormont then the Government could legislate to avoid the need for a fresh election. The ongoing DUP block on the functioning of power sharing, in protest at the protocol,

has ensured the Stormont institutions have remained in flux since the last Assembly election in May. The ministerial executive collapsed three months earlier when the DUP

withdrew its first minister. Mr Heaton-Harris has expressed hope that a breakthrough in EU/UK talks on Irish Sea trade can deliver a solution that facilitates the return of

power sharing. On Thursday, Mr Heaton-Harris and fellow UK ministers joined counterparts from Ireland’s government for a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental

Conference in Dublin. Commenting on his next steps, he said: “I’m going to talk to all the parties concerned. “You will be aware that there are also important talks

going on in Brussels between the UK government and European Union.