Theresa May says "some direct application of powers" may come from Westminster in the event of no-deal Brexit

Direct rule will return to Northern Ireland in some degree in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday.

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Prime Minister May made her comments in response to questioning from Conservative MP Vicky Ford on Monday.

Northern Ireland was last under direct rule in 1999 before a power-sharing assembly was established at Stormont.

In January 2017, the power-sharing collapsed, and Stormont has been suspended ever since.

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“Direct decision-making”

RTE reports that on Monday, Conservative MP Vicky Ford asked Prime Minister May if "direct decision-making" from Westminster would be needed in the event of a no-deal Brexit as the government at Stormont in Northern Ireland is still suspended.

MP Ford questioned: "Is the Prime Minister suggesting that, in order for Northern Ireland to be ready to leave with no deal, there would need to be some form of direct decision-making by us in this House in the absence of a Stormont government?"

Prime Minister May replied: "Yes, she is absolutely right - if there is no Stormont government, if powers are needed and ministerial direction is needed which is not available to civil servants currently, it would require some direct application of powers here from Westminster."

Originally, the UK was due to leave the European Union on Friday, March 29, but that deadline has now been extended as Parliament was not able to agree on a deal upon which to leave with.

Northern Ireland, who voted to ‘remain’ in the EU during the 2016 vote, has become the main sticking point through Brexit negotiations given its border with the Republic of Ireland.

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“Respect Northern Ireland’s position”

May also later said: "What I have genuinely been trying to achieve through everything that I have been doing is ensuring we respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and we respect Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom.”

"It is the case, as I say, that these remarks about the border have been made by, I think I'm right in saying, the Taoiseach and others previously, and then have been contradicted in turn by the European Commission in terms of what might be necessary."

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Response to the possibility of direct-rule

In a statement, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood said: “I was astonished to hear Theresa May suggest that the British Government is considering implementing direct-rule in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.”

“I would have thought a conversation of that magnitude would warrant some discussion with local parties before pronouncement in Westminster.”

“Our situation has been kicked about the House of Commons like a five pound football. We will not be used by Brexit fanatics for their own political ends. All parties here must come together to oppose the suggestion that our hard-won powers will be withdrawn to Westminster to make their lives easier and the lives of people here more difficult.”

“This Westminster power grab is being facilitated by the failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin to get back to work. They may think brinkmanship is good for elections but it doesn’t help a patient waiting for a hospital bed or a parent trying to get their child a good education. And transferring any of those powers to the Tories will only make it worse.” 

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Theresa May said on Monday that "some direct application of powers here from Westminster" may return in the event of no-deal Brexit.Getty Images