Foster to discuss DUP backing of minority government

Foster to discuss DUP backing of minority government

The DUP leader Arlene Foster is to hold talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May today to finalise an agreement to support her minority Conservative government. 

The Democratic Unionist Party delegation will discuss the party’s involvement in a potential confidence and supply arrangement in Downing Street following last week’s UK general election. 

Arlene Foster has described the talks on the issue so far as positive, but declined to give details.

It is thought Mrs Foster, despite being a Brexit supporter, could seek assurances from Mrs May that she will pursue a softer exit from the EU, given Northern Ireland’s 56% Remain vote and the DUP’s desire not to see a return to a hard border with Ireland.

The DUP leader is almost certain to ask for greater investment in Northern Ireland as the price of a deal.

Mrs Foster has rejected suggestions that the mooted agreement could undermine a return to power-sharing at Stormont amid claims from political rivals that the Government’s stated impartiality as a mediator would be fatally undermined.

Last night Mrs May told her backbench MP’s that the DUP would not have a veto on the government’s agenda, particularly in areas of social policy where the two parties disagree.

The Prime Minister also told the gathering that any deal would not affect talks aimed at restoring the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

Mrs May’s authority has been severely diminished after a disastrous general election which saw her lose her House of Commons majority.

While Mrs May appears to have seen off the threat of an immediate leadership challenge, her weakened grip on power has put her under pressure on several fronts.

Her new chief-of-staff Gavin Barwell has suggested she should take a different approach towards public spending after an anti-austerity Labour party election campaign denied her Conservatives a majority.

The PM also faced calls from Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, whose influence has grown dramatically with the election of 13 Tories north of the border, to pursue a softer Brexit with greater focus on the economy and more cross-party input.

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