General Election

Arlene Foster to finalise deal in London after weekend talks with Tories make 'good progress'

Arlene Foster said discussions with Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson had made 'good progress'. Picture by Mal McCann

ARLENE Foster is expected to travel to London tomorrow to finalise an agreement on propping up Theresa May's minority government.

The DUP leader said discussions in Belfast over the weekend with Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson had made "good progress".

However, Mrs Foster did not outline what her party would be seeking in return for bolstering the Conservatives through a 'confidence and supply' arrangement.

Downing Street initially said on Saturday that an outline agreement had been reached which would be put to the cabinet today. However, amid confusion it later emerged that no deal had been finalised.

The strength of any deal looks set to be tested when Westminster meets tomorrow, with Jeremy Corbyn vowing to try to bring down the government 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.

Mrs May yesterday made a number of re-appointments to her cabinet, with Secretary of State James Brokenshire earmarked to retain his post at Stormont Castle.

Michael Gove made a shock return as environment secretary, having been sacked by Mrs May in one of her first acts in Downing Street after he effectively scuppered the Tory leadership hopes of Mr Johnson.

Damian Green, a friend and ally of the prime minister, also moved from work and pensions secretary to become first secretary of state, effectively Mrs May's second in command, while other senior ministers including Mr Johnson retained their posts.

Ahead of Mrs Foster travelling to London, senior conservatives said the election had shown there was no longer support for a "hard Brexit".

Former chancellor George Osborne also predicted that Mrs May could be forced out of No 10 within a matter of days, saying she was "dead woman walking".

Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee and one of the party's key power brokers, insisted that there was no appetite among MPs for an immediate leadership challenge which could see them plunged into another general election.

However, he acknowledged that the party would have to abandon much of the programme set out in the general election manifesto as it would no longer be able to get it through Westminster.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has echoed DUP opposition to a hard Brexit by calling for a new approach building cross-party support for what she described as an "open Brexit".

Mr Osborne, who was sacked by Mrs May and now is editor of the London Evening Standard, said there was now no majority in the Commons for a "hard Brexit".

"The DUP need a deal because they are absolutely committed not to have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland," he told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show.

"Theresa May's central claim which is no deal is better than a bad deal now becomes undeliverable because the DUP will never allow no deal."

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said senior ministers had made clear to Mrs May she operated in the light of the election result.

"We are going to see, I hope, more collective decision-making in the cabinet. I and other senior colleagues have made that clear to her," he said.

While he played down suggestions that would involve rethinking the approach to Brexit, he indicated that there would be a new emphasis on business and did not rule out the possibility of co-operating with the Labour Party.

General Election

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