In an effort to end a political stalemate that could eventually lead to direct rule from London, the British government promised Friday to hold a fresh election for Northern Ireland’s devolved parliament within 12 weeks. UK to call Northern Ireland election within 12 weeks.
But it declined to set a date for the vote, which is likely to put a spotlight on deep political divisions over post-Brexit trade rules.
“I’m under a legal duty to call an election within 12 weeks,” Chris Heaton-Harris, the British government minister responsible for Northern Ireland, told journalists in Belfast. “You’ll hear more from me on that particular point next week.”
It is most likely that the vote will take place on December 15 in Northern Ireland, according to the media. A boycott of power-sharing by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements has left Northern Ireland without a functioning devolved government since February.
Elections in May, in which Irish nationalist rivals Sinn Fein took the most seats for the first time, failed to break the deadlock. The British government says it is legally obliged to call a new election after 24 weeks, a period that ended on Thursday.
In the event of an additional election, several regional political parties agree that it would not end the stalemate and may even anger voters by replacing a caretaker government with limited-power civil servants.
As part of Britain’s EU divorce deal, the Northern Ireland Protocol poses some concerns about dealing with post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland. As a result, the DUP says it won’t join a power-sharing government, which is compulsory in Northern Ireland.
Following a lengthy stalemate, Britain and the EU resumed talks earlier this month on how to fix problems with the protocol, and Irish officials had reported encouraging signs before Sunak replaced Liz Truss as British leader on Monday.
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