Clinton and May discuss Stormont crisis

Bill Clinton shaking hands with a police officer outside 10 Downing StImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Bill Clinton arriving at Number 10 for talks with Theresa May

The prime minister has discussed the current political impasse in Northern Ireland with former US president Bill Clinton.

Speaking after their Downing Street talks, Mr Clinton said he and Theresa May had a good meeting.

The former president met DUP and Sinn Féin politicians in Belfast on Tuesday.

The two parties have been holding talks in a bid to end nine months of political deadlock at Stormont.

The executive collapsed in January[1] and Northern Ireland has been without a power-sharing government since then.

Image copyright PACEMAKER Image caption Bill Clinton and Arlene Foster met in Belfast on Tuesday

In spite endless rounds of discussions, a deal to restore devolution has proved elusive with the introduction of an Irish language act seen as the main issue[2].

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said on Wednesday the latest date for a Northern Ireland Executive to be formed to pass a budget is the week beginning 6 November.

That would mean legislation would have to pass through Westminster by the end of this month, he said:Parties would have to agree a deal by 30 October for that to happen.

'Pressure over MLAs' pay'

Since his first visit to Northern Ireland in 1995, Bill Clinton has been the most high-profile international champion of the peace process.

As president, he played a key role in helping to secure the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which led to power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

His meetings with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill on Tuesday took place at a critical moment for inter-party talks.

But Downing Street made clear that while efforts to restore power-sharing were continuing, Mr Clinton had not been used to deliver a message on behalf of the Government.

Image copyright PA Image caption Mr Clinton said he and Mrs May had a good meeting

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Brokenshire said the prospects of a deal to restore devolution did not look positive.

Mr Brokenshire told Westminster's cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that progress in the intensive talks stalled at the end of last week.

The stumbling blocks between the DUP and Sinn Féin were on language and culture, he said.

Mr Brokenshire also told the committee he "recognises public pressure" over the issue of MLAs' pay.[3]

There have been calls in Northern Ireland for politicians' £49,500 annual salaries to be cut in the absence of a power-sharing government.

Mr Brokenshire said he would will keep the issue "under examination", and would deal with it if there was no progress in talks.

The Westminster select committee is charged with investigating Northern Irish matters, including the role of the Northern Ireland Office.

Its chairman, Dr Andrew Murrison, said the reputation of politicians in Northern Ireland was "plummeting".

The people of Northern Ireland had been dealt "a pretty raw deal", and it would be "unfair to point the finger at the British government", Dr Murrison told the BBC's Evening Extra programme.

'No deal, no recommendation'

Mrs O'Neill said on Wednesday she was still hopeful of a positive resolution, but added:"Clearly, we are quickly running out of road."

Image copyright Press Eye Image caption Considerable challenges remain in the Stormont talks, says Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill

She denied claims in the Irish Times that she had been ready to make a deal with the DUP, but had been overruled by senior party figures.

Mrs O'Neill said she had "no deal, or no recommendation even" to put to a meeting of the party's ard chomairle (executive board) last weekend..

Party leader Gerry Adams said the Irish government was "sleep-walking into a deeper crisis in Anglo-Irish relationships" in relation to a possible return to direct rule.

'Callous disregard for patients'

Other political parties in Northern Ireland have voiced their frustration with the situation.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said Mr Brokenshire had a responsibility to "look at options to allow other parties to get on with the job".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the two main parties "have brought us to the brink of direct rule".

"For the nationalist community, after years of trying to bring power back to Irish soil in order that local people could make local decisions, it should be a source of great anger that all of that power and progress is now being handed back to a Tory-DUP government in London," he added.

The Alliance Party's health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw accused the parties of "showing a callous disregard for patient care".

"Issues such as missed targets and long waiting lists have direct consequences on people's quality of life," she said.

"Yet still we see parties putting their own narrow sectional interests ahead of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people."...

References

  1. ^ collapsed in January (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ Irish language act seen as the main issue (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ issue of MLAs' pay. (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Pro-Brexit MPs urge Theresa May to quit talks

Former Tory chancellor Lord LawsonImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson is among those calling for the UK to take decisive action

Theresa May is being urged to walk away from Brexit negotiations this week if EU leaders refuse to start trade talks.

The call comes from a group of pro-Brexit Tory and Labour politicians, including former Chancellor Lord Lawson, as well as business leaders.

The prime minister is to push for the deadlocked talks to move to the next phase at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

But EU officials are not expecting any movement at the summit.

The other 27 leaders are expected to deliver a verdict on progress on Friday that will say Britain must make an offer on the so-called divorce bill before they will talk about trade, according to officials quoted by Reuters.

But European Council President Donald Tusk is expected to propose to the 27 EU leaders that they begin talks amongst themselves about Britain's future relationship with the EU, when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

In a letter to Theresa May, organised by the Leave Means Leave campaign, leading Brexiteers say the government "has been more than patient" towards the EU and "decisive action" was now needed to end the "highly damaging" levels of uncertainty facing businesses.

In the event of no progress at Thursday's European Council meeting, the letter says, Mrs May should formally declare that the UK is working on the assumption that it will be reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on 30 March, 2019.

Early notification of such a move would allow the UK to "concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues" and prepare to "crystallise the economic opportunities" of Brexit, it adds.

The letter is signed by Lord Lawson, Conservative former ministers Owen Paterson and Peter Lilley, Labour MPs Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer and Kelvin Hopkins, Wetherspoons pub boss Tim Martin and home shopping magnate and Labour donor John Mills, as well as pro-Brexit academics and former military figures....

Read more

Big Ben will chime again in November but may be inaccurate

Big Ben in Elizabeth TowerImage copyright PA

Big Ben will chime for the first time since August on 9 November, in preparation for Armistice Day.

The peels have been stopped for repairs to the Elizabeth Tower.

But the chimes may not keep perfect time, parliamentary authorities warned.

After marking 09:00 GMT on 9 November, crews will work to remove "slight inaccuracies" to ensure the bell chimes at exactly 11:00 GMT on 11 November.It will fall silent again after marking 13:00 GMT on Remembrance Sunday.

They will remain silent until starting again for the Christmas period.

When the chimes were stopped in August, authorities emphasised that they would still ring for important occasions.

The decision to silence the bell was made in order to protect the hearing of those carrying out repair works on the tower.

Precautions have been taken to ensure that workers remain on lower - and quieter - levels of the tower while the bell is ringing.The works are being halted over Christmas, allowing the bell to chime without risk.

In August the news that Big Ben would not sound again before 2021 prompted criticism from Theresa May and other MPs.

The House of Commons said it would look again at the duration of the project and the scope for hearing the bell's bongs more often....

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Clinton and May to discuss Stormont crisis

Bill ClintonImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Bill Clinton met Sinn Féin and DUP politicians in Belfast on Tuesday

The prime minister is to discuss the current political impasse in NI with former US president Bill Clinton.

Mr Clinton, who met the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin's Stormont leader in Belfast, will meet Theresa May in London on Thursday.

The DUP and Sinn Féin have been holding talks in a bid to end nine months of political deadlock at Stormont.

The executive collapsed in January[1] and Northern Ireland has been without a power-sharing government since then.

In spite endless rounds of discussions, a deal to restore devolution has proved elusive with the introduction of an Irish language act seen as the main issue[2].

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has said the latest date for a Northern Ireland Executive to be formed to pass a budget is the week beginning 6 November.

That would mean legislation would have to pass through Westminster by the end of this month, he said:Parties would have to agree a deal by 30 October for that to happen.

'Pressure over MLAs' pay'

Since his first visit to Northern Ireland in 1995, Bill Clinton has been the most high-profile international champion of the peace process.

His meetings with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill on Tuesday took place at a critical moment for inter-party talks.

Image copyright PA Image caption Mr Clinton and Mrs May are also set to discuss the Clinton Health Access Initiative's work to lower the cost of HIV treatment

But speaking on Wednesday, Mr Brokenshire said the prospects of a deal to restore devolution did not look positive.

Mr Brokenshire told Westminster's cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that progress in the intensive talks stalled at the end of last week.

The stumbling blocks between the DUP and Sinn Féin were on language and culture, he said.

Mr Brokenshire also told the committee he "recognises public pressure" over the issue of MLAs' pay.[3]

There have been calls in Northern Ireland for politicians' pay to be cut in the absence of a power-sharing government.

He said he would will keep the issue "under examination", and would deal with it if there was no progress in talks.

The Westminster select committee is charged with investigating Northern Irish matters, including the role of the Northern Ireland Office.

Its chairman, Dr Andrew Murrison, said the reputation of politicians in Northern Ireland was "plummeting".

The people of Northern Ireland had been dealt "a pretty raw deal", and it would be "unfair to point the finger at the British government", Dr Murrison told the BBC's Evening Extra programme.

'No deal, no recommendation'

Mrs O'Neill said on Wednesday she was still hopeful of a positive resolution, but added:"Clearly, we are quickly running out of road."

Image copyright Press Eye Image caption Considerable challenges remain in the Stormont talks, says Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill

She denied claims in the Irish Times that she had been ready to make a deal with the DUP, but had been overruled by senior party figures.

Mrs O'Neill said she had "no deal, or no recommendation even" to put to a meeting of the party's ard chomairle (executive board) last weekend..

Party leader Gerry Adams said the Irish government was "sleep-walking into a deeper crisis in Anglo-Irish relationships" in relation to a possible return to direct rule.

'Callous disregard for patients'

Other political parties in Northern Ireland have voiced their frustration with the situation.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said Mr Brokenshire had a responsibility to "look at options to allow other parties to get on with the job".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the two main parties "have brought us to the brink of direct rule".

"For the nationalist community, after years of trying to bring power back to Irish soil in order that local people could make local decisions, it should be a source of great anger that all of that power and progress is now being handed back to a Tory-DUP government in London," he added.

The Alliance Party's health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw accused the parties of "showing a callous disregard for patient care".

"Issues such as missed targets and long waiting lists have direct consequences on people's quality of life," she said.

"Yet still we see parties putting their own narrow sectional interests ahead of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people."...

References

  1. ^ collapsed in January (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ Irish language act seen as the main issue (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ issue of MLAs' pay. (www.bbc.co.uk)

Read more

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