The UK government has ruled out a suggestion of joint authority in Northern Ireland, should talks aimed at restoring the Stormont Executive fail.

In a statement a spokesperson said in absence of devolution “it is ultimately for the United Kingdom Government to provide the certainty over delivery of public services and good governance in Northern Ireland”.

It follows comments from the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Tuesday.

Mr Coveney was in Belfast to try to kick-start power-sharing at Stormont and said all parties wanted to see progress made.

However, he said direct rule from London cannot be imposed in Northern Ireland without Irish government input, after Westminster warned it may pass legislation to fund public services.

Mr Coveney also warned the talks are at a high-stakes stage and cannot continue for many more weeks.

Minister Coveney said there were still grounds for optimism and direct rule should still be avoided.

"There can be no British-only direct rule. That is the Irish government's position," he said.

But the UK government responded by saying it will hold responsibility for "good governance in Northern Ireland".

A spokesperson said: "The UK Government, along with the Irish government, is engaging intensively with the Northern Ireland parties to secure the reestablishment of inclusive, devolved government at Stormont, and the operation of all the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement. That is our clear objective and we are determined to succeed.”

"Should this not prove possible, in the absence of devolved government, it is ultimately for the United Kingdom Government to provide the certainty over delivery of public services and good governance in Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom. This is consistent with our obligations under the Belfast Agreement."

"We will never countenance any arrangement, such as Joint Authority, inconsistent with the principle of consent in the Agreement."