Parties reach deal in Stormont giving UK power to cut welfare

A deal has been reached between the major parties in Northern Ireland to bring an end to the political crisis at Stormont.

It is understood the deal will see MLAs pass an emergency motion giving Westminster the power to implement cuts to the welfare system.

Sources say the move will make sure that the British government is held responsible for any cuts being enforced on the North.

However, the cuts will be mitigated by a series of other financial measures, which sources said would "blunt the edge" of any cuts.

The deal also includes measures to tackle cross-border crime and the remaining paramilitary forces on both the republican and loyalist sides.

However other 'legacy' issues such as flags, emblems and parades have been deferred to a separate round of talks to begin in the coming months.

Among the key reforms in the ground-breaking deal are:

:: An additional £500 million from the Exchequer to tackle issues unique to Northern Ireland, including efforts on the removal of peace walls.

:: Devolving corporation tax powers to bring in a 12.5% rate in line with the Republic of Ireland.

:: Fresh obligations on the NI parties to work together to end the presence of paramilitarism.

:: Concerted efforts to target organised and cross-border crime.

:: Measures to address the issue of flags and parades.

:: Reform of the Stormont Assembly including its size, the number of departments and the use of petitions of concern as a form of opposition.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “This deal means that Northern Ireland’s finances can be put back on a sustainable footing, ending the long-standing dispute over the budget.

“There will be a fresh emphasis on tackling paramilitarism and organised crime and clear declaration that such activity will never be tolerated.

“And there will be reforms of the Executive and Assembly to make devolution work better.

“Today’s agreement is another step towards the Government’s goal of building a brighter, more secure future for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

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