DUP-Tory deal may not be reached by opening of Parliament

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street for talks. Picture: PADUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street for talks. Picture: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street for talks. Picture: PA
A deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up a minority government may not be reached by the time the Queen's Speech goes ahead next week, it has been revealed.

The government said it will press ahead with the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday despite there being no guarantee of a full agreement to ensure the 
Conservatives can pass future legislation.

A senior Conservative source briefed journalists that there was “broad agreement on the principles of the Queen’s Speech”, which will set out a slimmed-down programme for government following the failure to secure a majority last week.

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However, the source added that a full deal on the government’s programme wasn’t required before the opening of Parliament, adding that there would be “steady dialogue” with the DUP.

The comments open the door to rolling talks continuing indefinitely, or if talks fail, a minority government – either of which would deepen concern over the stability of the government. It also means the UK and EU would begin Brexit talks on Monday without clarity on how the Government’s objectives may be changed by any deal with the DUP.

A DUP source was quoted saying the party backed Mrs May’s plan to leave the EU single market and the customs union, in a blow to efforts by Ruth Davidson, Philip Hammond and Tory back-benchers to push for a softer Brexit.

The Conservative source said both parties were “committed to strengthening the union, combating terrorism, delivering Brexit and delivering prosperity across the whole country,” and that Northern Ireland would get a funding boost.

The source added: “While talks are ongoing, it’s important the government gets on with its business and we are confident there will be sufficient support across the House for passing the Queen’s Speech.”

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said the government had “agreed with Buckingham Palace” to go ahead with the State Opening of Parliament, a constitutional requirement before MPs can hold debates and begin work.

Delegations from Northern Irish Parties met the Prime Minister at Downing Street to express their concern at the impact a deal with the DUP could have on efforts to reconvene the powersharing executive.

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Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he “told Theresa May directly that she is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement” by undermining the UK government’s role as an impartial guarantor.

Colum Eastwood, the leader of the nationalist SDLP, said the government needed to “prove to the rest of us that they are not under the thumb of the DUP.” And Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said the Prime Minister had assured him that the “entire deal will be made public”.

Meanwhile, the EU and UK government confirmed that Brexit Secretary David Davis and European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier will meet in Brussels on Monday. Mr Barnier posted the news on Twitter, writing simply: “We are starting”.