Northern Ireland news

James Brokenshire: New powers to Stormont dependent on return of Executive

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said power-sharing needs to be restored as soon as possible. Picture by Mal McCann
Staff Reporters

THE transfer of additional powers to Stormont after Brexit is dependent on the restoration of power-sharing, James Brokenshire has said.

The Secretary of State was speaking after Brexit Secretary David Davis wrote to the north's main parties giving details of the government's priorities for the north as the UK prepares to negotiate its departure from the European Union.

A majority of people in the north voted in favour of remaining within the EU in June's referendum.

Mr Davis' letter expands on British Prime Minister Theresa May's suggestion that more powers could be passed to the devolved administrations in the UK, including Stormont, following Brexit.

He writes that any further devolution must involve "intensive discussions". His letter also says that as part of considerations over the possible replacement of EU funding, the government is "aware of" EU-backed programmes including the Peace and Interreg funds which have had a role in "enhancing community cohesion across Northern Ireland and in border regions".

Mr Brokenshire said yesterday the transfer of new powers would be dependent on power-sharing, adding that "the challenge is not having a devolved government at this time".

He said the government will consult on plans to transfer responsibilities to the devolved administrations as as power "comes back from Europe to a UK level".

Reiterating the need for a restoration of power-sharing, Mr Brokenshire added that if a political deal is not reached after Easter he would need to start legislating to deal with issues, including allowing local councils to issue rates bills.

"My optimum desire, my intent, is to be able to legislate to put an Executive back into place, that is still there to be delivered and can be delivered but it is about dealing with these outstanding issues," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Davis said the Government does not know if the devolved institutions will need to sign off law changes made through the so-called "Great Repeal Bill".

Devolved institutions give permission to the UK Parliament to pass laws relating to devolved matters by agreeing a legislative consent motion.

But the Brexit Secretary said ministers "don't know" yet if permission will be needed as the UK looks to convert EU law into UK law.

Responding to SNP frontbencher Joanna Cherry in the Commons, Mr Davis said: "At this stage we don't know because we don't know the final format of the Bill".

"That's the simple truth," he said.

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