PM confirms move on NI budget legislation

File photo dated 26/06/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May with DUP leader Arlene Foster (left), as DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (second right) and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson sign paperwork inside 10 Downing Street, London, after the DUP agreed a deal to support the minority Conservative government. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday October 26, 2017. A legal challenge against the controversial deal is to be launched at the High Court. See PA story COURTS DUP. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
File photo dated 26/06/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May with DUP leader Arlene Foster (left), as DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (second right) and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson sign paperwork inside 10 Downing Street, London, after the DUP agreed a deal to support the minority Conservative government. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday October 26, 2017. A legal challenge against the controversial deal is to be launched at the High Court. See PA story COURTS DUP. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Legislation will be brought forward at Westminster today to set a Northern Ireland budget, a move which the DUP leader has said is a sign of things to come if devolution cannot be restored.

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the move after speaking with the leadership of the DUP and Sinn Fein at the end of last week.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “In separate phone calls, [Theresa May] expressed her concern that despite recent progress agreement had not yet been reached and she urged both parties to bridge the gaps on the outstanding issues that remained.

“On Northern Ireland’s finances, the prime minister explained how the UK Government will reluctantly be taking forward legislation for a Budget Bill [today], to ensure that in the absence of an Executive, public services in Northern Ireland have the resources they need to operate.

“The prime minister made clear this was absolutely not an indication of direct rule but it was necessary to enable the Northern Ireland Civil Service to allocate funds for key public services while talks between the parties continued.

“There was agreement on the importance of devolved government being returned to Northern Ireland for the benefit of all communities and the prime minister said that the UK Government would continue to work, alongside the Irish Government, with the parties in reaching a successful outcome.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “We appreciate the prime minister’s continued interest and engagement with the situation in Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately Northern Ireland has been without an Executive now for 10 months so it is right that a budget is now passed at Westminster to ensure the good governance of Northern Ireland. If there continues to be a refusal to restore devolution then there will be greater intervention from London.”

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said the move was part of a “slippery slope towards full direct rule”.