Northern Irish power sharing is set to resume after its biggest political parties agreed a deal to break a three-year deadlock that paralysed decision making in the troubled region.
The nationalist pro-Irish Sinn Fein party agreed to re-enter the assembly and executive on Friday in Belfast, accepting proposals tabled by the UK and Irish governments. The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party has endorsed the plans to restart the institutions, which collapsed in February 2017 over a renewable energy initiative that spiralled far over-budget.
The assembly is expected to meet on Saturday afternoon with politicians electing a speaker and appointing executive ministers, the BBC reported. The assembly and executive are key pieces of the architecture of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, which largely ended three decades of violence in the region. Known as Stormont, the assembly could yet play a central role in shaping the outcome of Brexit.
The European Union and cross-party UK politicians welcomed the move to get devolved government up and running again. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that the development would help deliver much needed reforms to public services. Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer tweeted that the move “an important step forward” while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it “an extremely positive development”.
The EU and UK struck a deal that effectively leaves Northern Ireland in the EU’s custom union and much of the single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. But, the assembly will regularly vote on the arrangement, with the first ballot set for four years after the end of the transition period. The deadlock was broken by the British and Irish governments, who pledged to give more weight to the Irish language and extra cash to Northern Ireland.
Britain will legislate to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the UK internal market, and ensure that this legislation is in force for January 1 2021, according to the draft deal to restore the government. The UK’s Brexit transition period is set to expire at the end of 2020.