The British government imposed a budget on Northern Ireland on Thursday, taking another step towards direct rule.
The last unity government collapsed in December 2016 and the region has been unable to draft and pass its own budget. Given the inability to form a power-sharing executive – in line to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – the diplomatic tension between London and Dublin is rising.
The British government is no longer able to broker negotiations, as Theresa May’s government depends on the parliamentary support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). That means that unionists have little incentive to reach a compromise, prolonging the stalemate. The 1998 Agreement holds London and Dublin as co-guarantors of the power-sharing regime.
Sinn Fein Republicans fear the DUP will effectively govern N. Ireland from London.
The UK’s financial year begins in April and the budget outline includes a generous boost in public expenditure, which the DUP secured in exchange for its parliamentary support in June 2017.
The political crisis takes place in the context of dead-end Brexit negotiations, which could mean the island may reinstate a hard border.