A fresh assembly election in Northern Ireland will “definitely happen” after politicians missed Thursday night’s (27 October) deadline for restoring devolved government.
The Stormont assembly has been operating with limited powers since February when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) withdrew from the executive in protest at the post-Brexit trading arrangements introduced by the Northern Ireland protocol.
The DUP did not take its place in Stormont following new elections in May.
Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is set to call an election to be held within 12 weeks, with the most likely date being 15 December, reports the BBC.
Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey confirmed that “[the elections] will definitely happen.”
The protocol keeps Northern Ireland aligned with some EU trade rules to ensure goods can move freely across the Irish border.
According to Politico, the DUP won’t end its blockade on power-sharing until Britain abandons the EU-required checks.
Stormont’s caretaker ministers were removed from office from midnight and senior civil servants are now in charge.
The DUP will continue its protest against the protocol and – as polling indicates that the number of seats is not expected to change drastically for the DUP or their main rivals Sinn Féin – the election is unlikely to break the stalemate.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said “nothing has moved forward in solving the protocol” since the last assembly election.
The Guardian reports that the DUP rebuffed appeals from the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, business leaders and other parties, to get back to work at Stormont.
Nationalist parties and the Irish government said that in the absence of devolved government, Dublin should have a greater role in Northern Ireland, working in partnership with London.
Unionists rejected this idea and said any form of "joint authority" would be unacceptable.
EU retained law
Meanwhile, prime minister Rishi Sunak is considering scrapping plans to review or replace all retained EU laws by the end of 2023, and also rethinking a pledge to create a “Brexit delivery unit”, reports City AM.
Sunak has been told hundreds of civil servants would be tied up in reviewing 2,400 pieces of EU legislation.
“The time for changes in the machinery of government has passed,” a Sunak ally told the FT.
The CBI said changing EU regulation and introducing new British standards risked acting as a “drag on growth”.
Sunak has also not named a dedicated “Brexit opportunities minister”, a role handed by Boris Johnson to the sacked Jacob Rees-Mogg.