Theresa May seeks to allay fears among DUP's Stormont rivals
Leadership teams from four of the north's main parties will be in London today to meet Theresa May and Secretary of State James Brokenshire.
It is understood the prime minister will seek to reassure Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance that the expected 'confidence and supply' deal with the DUP will not undermine the peace process.
It was widely expected that the agreement which would see Arlene Foster's party prop-up the minority Tory government would have been sealed yesterday. However, the announcement was put on hold following the devastating fire in a west London tower block.
Delays in finalising the deal, the thrust of which remains unknown, has already led to the likely postponement of of the Queen's Speech, which had been scheduled for next Monday June 19.
Talks with the DUP broke up on Tuesday night without an agreement but Mrs May said the discussions had been "productive".
Mrs Foster, who travelled to Downing Street for talks with the Tories on Tuesday, said she hoped a deal could be reached "sooner rather than later". According to reports, DUP sources have indicated that diary commitments could delay the deal announcement until next week.
One of the most pressing issues facing Mrs May is the process of leaving the EU, with Brexit talks set to start in Brussels on Monday.
Former prime minister David Cameron said his successor would have to change her approach to Brexit as a result of the election.
"It's going to be difficult – there's no doubt about that, but perhaps an opportunity to consult more widely with the other parties on how best we can achieve it," he said at a conference in Poland.
"I think there will be pressure for a softer Brexit," Mr Cameron added, saying that Parliament now "deserves a say" on the issue.
He also suggested the Scottish Tories led by Ruth Davidson could also add to the pressure on Mrs May to change course.
Mrs May stressed Brexit would happen and the timetable remains on course.
Today she and Mr Brokenshire will seek to allay the concerns of the DUP's Stormont rivals, most of who have voiced misgivings about the mooted DUP deal.
Former British prime minister Sir John Major and ex-Stormont first minister David Trimble are among others who have urged caution.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance have all made clear that the secretary of state is ill-suited to chairing the Stormont talks process due to their perception he has a conflict of interest.
The Good Friday Agreement commits the British and Irish Governments to demonstrate "rigorous impartiality" in their dealings with the north's different political traditions.
Sinn Féin's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill said: "I will be making it very clear that any deal between the Tories and the DUP cannot be allowed to undermine the Good Friday and subsequent agreements."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood voiced concern about potential side deals between the DUP and the Tories.
“The context in which the talks process is now being asked to operate in could have very serious consequences if there is any suggestion of a back room deal with the DUP," he said.