Northern Ireland secretary warns pre-Christmas Stormont election 'not an idle threat'

The new secretary of state for Northern Ireland has signaled his intention to call a pre-Christmas Assembly election.

He said he had no intention of calling an election and it was not an "idle threat".

Chris Heaton-Harris was speaking after meetings with some of the Stormont party leaders on Tuesday.

When asked if he would call a winter poll if the power-sharing institutions cannot be restored, he said: "That is what the legislation says. I probably will.

"The legislation says that and I have no intention of changing the legislation."

Mr Heaton-Harris urged people to judge him on his actions and his words, adding: "I am always keen to be judged on what I actually do rather than what people expect or think they know of me."

The DUP is currently blocking the functioning of the Executive as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Current rules stipulate that without a functioning Executive, ministers must stand down on 28 October and the Government call an election within 12 weeks.

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris earlier, UUP Leader Doug Beattie said the prospect of a pre-Christmas election would be "absolutely diabolical".

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