Northern Ireland Scrambles to Save Power-Sharing as Brexit Looms

  • Region could lose input role as U.K. readies EU exit
  • Northern Ireland faces rule by London unless accord reached

The onus is on Northern Ireland’s politicians to form a new government, the Irish foreign minister said, as the region’s parties prepare for talks on reviving power-sharing.

While the Irish and U.K. governments stand ready to aid the process, it’s up to parties led by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein to put in place a new administration, Charlie Flanagan said in an interview aired by broadcaster RTE on Monday. Talks are due to begin on Monday, RTE said.

Why Northern Ireland Is on Cusp of Crisis Again: QuickTake Q&A

The DUP won 28 seats in Thursday’s election, just one more than the nationalist Sinn Fein party. One sticking point may be the position of DUP leader Arlene Foster. Sinn Fein has said they won’t work with her until an investigation into how the costs of a renewable energy initiative spiraled out of control is complete. Sinn Fein brought down the assembly in January over the issue.

The U.K. may have to reimpose direct rule on the region if the two biggest parties cannot agree to enter government together again. That would leave Northern Ireland without a voice while the U.K. starts negotiations to leave the European Union. The North voted to remain in the bloc and its agriculture-based economy makes it especially vulnerable to higher trade tariffs that may follow if Britain leaves the EU’s single market.

The DUP and Sinn Fein, which wants a united Ireland, will have three weeks to agree on a new power-sharing arrangement or direct rule from London will be imposed.

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