The UK government will introduce new legislation today to extend the deadline for forming an executive in Northern Ireland.
There has been no functioning government in Stormont since May’s vote, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refusing to restore power-sharing unless the Northern Ireland protocol is scrapped.
The post-Brexit trade agreement was designed to prevent a hard border being introduced on the island of Ireland, but has instead led to trade barriers in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the anger of unionists.
Under the current law, political parties had until 28 October to form an executive or be forced to hold fresh Assembly elections within 12 weeks of the deadline.
Read more: Analysis – What’s the point in another Northern Ireland election if devolution is dead?
But they remained at a stalemate, and there was little appetite for a fresh ballot, especially during a cost of living crisis.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris confirmed he would introduce new legislation to extend the timeframe earlier this month, and the bill will now be brought to parliament.
The new deadline for forming an executive will be 8 December, with the possibility of a further six week extension to 19 January – meaning the latest a new election would be held would be 13 April.
The bill will also allow the Northern Ireland secretary to cut Assembly members’ (MLAs’) pay while they are not sitting in Stormont, as well as enabling a small nu