General Election

Arlene Foster in London to seal deal with Tories

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds at Stormont Castle. Picture by Mal McCann

THERESA May is today expected to cement her minority government's deal with the DUP - but it remains unclear what concessions Arlene Foster's party will be seeking for propping up the Tories.

The DUP leader flew to London last night ahead of discussions with senior Conservatives around the proposed 'confidence and supply' arrangement.

The Tories' failure to secure a working majority in last Thursday's general election means the party requires the support of the DUP's 10 MPs to ensure it can win key votes in the House of Commons.

It emerged yesterday that thrashing out a deal between Mrs May's government and the north's largest party could lead to a delay in the Queen's Speech.

The monarch is due to set out the British government's programme next Monday June 19 but that may be postponed while the deal between the prime minister and the DUP is finalised.

Speaking at Stormont yesterday before departing for London, Mrs Foster was cagey about what her party would be seeking in return for bolstering a minority Tory administration.

"We're not going to negotiate over the airwaves," the DUP leader said.

"We're going into these talks with the national interest at heart. The union, as I said before, is our guiding star – we believe in the union, we believe in national, stable government and that is at the forefront of our mind."

However, she said the potential deal could bring benefits for the north.

"I think this is a tremendous opportunity not just for this party but for Northern Ireland in terms of the nation, and we're looking forward to playing our part in that," she said.

It has been speculated that the DUP will seek funding for infrastructure projects in the north, alongside greater powers for the devolved administration at Stormont.

It has also been suggested that the party could seek an end to the prosecution of members of the armed forces in Troubles cases.

However, Mrs Foster rejected suggestions that the mooted deal could undermine a return to power-sharing at Stormont, amid claims from political rivals that the British government's stated impartiality would be fatally undermined.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he would not call a Tory-DUP coalition "stable", turning Mrs May's own slogan against her to brand it "a coalition of chaos".

"Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed," said Mr Adams, adding that he hoped Mrs Foster would not get "too mesmerised by what's happening on our nearest off-shore island".

A Labour spokesman said: "Number 10's failure to confirm the date of the Queen's Speech shows that this government is in chaos as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women's rights."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron described the possible delay as "an utter humiliation" for the PM.

"It is time to stop trying to cling to power and time to admit enough is enough," said Mr Farron, who branded the possible Tory/DUP deal as a "MayDUP government".

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