James Forsyth

James Brokenshire plays for time in Northern Ireland. Will it work?

James Brokenshire plays for time in Northern Ireland. Will it work?
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The Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is playing for time. In a statement made after the 4pm deadline for forming an executive in Northern Ireland was missed, Brokenshire said that he was giving the parties a few more weeks to try and reach a deal. He justified this on the basis that there is no enthusiasm for either early elections or direct rule from Westminster.

But even with more time, it is hard to see how an agreement can be reached. Sinn Fein, post Martin McGuinness, is far more determined to cause mischief and senses a Brexit moment of opportunity. This means that it is not keen on joining a power sharing executive. For their part, the DUP are not prepared to drop their leader Arlene Foster after the ‘cash for ash’ scandal. But Sinn Fein have said they will not work with her.

Some senior figures in the UK government thought that the poor DUP result in the recent Assembly Election would lead to them dropping Arlene Foster of their own accord. But there is no sign of that happening.

It is hard to see what will change in the next few weeks. At some point, Brokenshire is going to have to choose between another set of assembly elections or bringing in direct rule.