A referendum on the St Andrews' Agreement will not be held in the North because it would secure far less support from voters than the Belfast Agreement did eight years ago, according to talks' sources.
There are also fears of a low turn-out which would be a PR disaster for the British and Irish governments. It would also be embarrassing for the DUP if the party endorsed an agreement less popular than the one negotiated by David Trimble.
If the North's parties do sign up to the St Andrews' Agreement, an Assembly election will be held in the first or second week of March, rather than a referendum. Turnout for the 1998 Belfast Agreement was 81%, with 71% of people voting 'yes'.
"Nothing like that would be possible this time. DUP voters will turn out to vote for their party but not for a referendum to put Sinn Féin in government," said a source. Another source said republican grassroots would see voting for the Agreement as voting for the police.
The DUP has always favoured an election, with the governments and the SDLP preferring a referendum. However, senior DUP sources stressed their party had not yet signed up to any deal, and DUP support wasn't inevitable.
"What emerged from St Andrews was a set of proposals, not a deal. Many matters remain unresolved and need more discussion," the source said. The parties have until November 10 to respond to the St Andrews' Agreement
Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson has said he will be "very surprised" if the timetable for appointing shadow First and Deputy First Ministers by 24 November is met.
The DUP wants a pledge of support for policing by Sinn Féin before then. Robinson said it appeared Sinn Féin would not be ready in time. Unlike David Trimble and the Ulster Unionists, his party wouldn't jump first, he said.