DUP leader hails ‘good progress’ with Theresa May

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Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster is set to hold talks with Theresa May in Downing Street to finalise an agreement on propping up her minority government.

The DUP confirmed that Mrs Foster would be going to No10 on Tuesday after discussions in Belfast over the weekend were said to have made “good progress”.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster with her party. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster with her party. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Mrs Foster told Sky News: “We had very good discussions yesterday with the Conservative Party in relation to how we could support them in forming a national government - one that would bring stability to the nation. Those discussions continue.”

Downing Street initially said on Saturday that an outline agreement on a “confidence and supply” arrangement had been reached with the DUP which would be put to the Cabinet for discussion on Monday.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster (centre) Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

DUP leader Arlene Foster (centre) Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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But it later disclosed that no deal had been finalised and talks on the arrangement will continue during the week as Mrs May desperately tries to shore up her position after losing her Commons majority in the election.

The strength of any deal looks set to be tested when the Commons meets, with Jeremy Corbyn vowing to try to bring down the Government by defeating Mrs May in Parliament and insisting: “I can still be prime minister.”

In another sign of the dangers facing Mrs May, Sunday papers reported that Boris Johnson was either being encouraged to make a leadership bid in an effort to oust her, or actually preparing one - a claim dismissed as “tripe” by the Foreign Secretary.

The 10 DUP MPs could prove crucial in supporting the Conservatives on key votes after Thursday’s election saw Mrs May lose control of the Commons.

A confidence and supply deal would mean them backing the Government on its Budget and confidence motions, but could potentially lead to other issues being decided on a vote-by-vote basis.

Commenting on the UK government’s attempts to establish a “confidence and supply deal” with the DUP, SNP MP and Northern Ireland spokesperson Deidre Brock said:

“It is an absolute shambles that the Tories claimed to have struck a formal deal with the DUP, only to now admit that no such deal was in place. Theresa May’s government is in absolute chaos.

“It would be nothing short of scandalous if the Tory party jeopardised the return of government in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday process in order to cling on to power at Westminster.”

She added: “The PM’s private reassurances are worthless given her track record of u-turns and her clear desperation to cling to power.

Meanwhile Ireland’s foreign minister said Theresa May’s desire to team up with the DUP does “not necessarily” undermine the Northern Ireland peace process.

Charlie Flanagan said he has raised the matter with Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, although it remains to be seen what deal is agreed between the Conservatives and Arlene Foster’s party.

Mr Flanagan was asked about suggestions that any Conservative deal with the DUP would undermine Westminster’s impartiality as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement.

He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday: “Well, not necessarily the case. Of course, it remains to be seen what the nature of that deal is.

“But this is an issue I did address the evening before last with Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

“I look forward to meeting with him again tomorrow if his appointment is reaffirmed, but yes I think it’s an important issue that you raise - the objectivity of both governments, and both governments working strictly in accordance with our legal responsibilities under the Belfast Agreement, the Irish government as co-guarantor, indeed the British Government as co-guarantor.”