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General Election

DUP-Tory deal may be delayed because of London fire

Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster arrive at Number 10. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Digital staff

An expected deal between Theresa May and the DUP to prop up the Prime Minister's minority government may be delayed because of the fire in London.

Several hundred people are thought to have been in Grenfell Tower, north Kensington, when the fire was reported at 1.15am on Wednesday, and London Fire Brigade confirmed there had been a "number of fatalities".

DUP sources told the BBC that Mrs May and DUP leader Arlene Foster were now finalising the terms and conditions of the deal..

But the London tower block fire made any announcement today "inappropriate".  Diary commitments could in fact mean that the finalisation of any deal may not happen until next week.

Talks between the two parties failed to complete yesterday but Arlene Foster voiced hope that it could be signed off "sooner rather than later".

Mrs May's disastrous general election result means the Conservatives will be dependent on the support of the DUP's 10 MPs in key House of Commons votes.

Mrs Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds spent yesterday lunchtime at Downing Street thrashing out the details of the 'confidence and supply' arrangement but despite widespread expectation, the talks ended without an announcement.

The meeting broke up so the prime minister could make the short journey to Westminster for the election of the Commons' speaker.

The DUP team left by the 'Whitehall exit' to the rear of Number 10, avoiding questions from the assembled media.

The talks later continued at Westminster without Theresa May after she left for Paris for a pre-arranged meeting with newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron.

Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson, who flew to Belfast for talks with the DUP at the weekend, took the lead for the Conservatives.

Afterwards Mrs Foster repeated her assertion that the negotiations would focus on UK-wide interests.

"There's been a lot of commentary around the issues that we are talking about and it won't surprise anyone that we are talking about matters that pertain, of course, to the nation generally," she said.

"Bringing stability to the UK government in and around issues around Brexit, obviously around counter-terrorism, and then doing what's right for Northern Ireland in respect of economic matters."

The former first minister told the BBC that she hoped the talks could reach a conclusion "sooner rather than later."

No details have yet emerged of what concessions the DUP will be seeking in return for its support.

A Downing Street source told the Press Association that the talks had been "constructive" but refused to put a timescale on when they would conclude.

"It'll be done when it's done," they said. "Talks are going well."

Speaking at Westminster, the prime minister did not mention the ongoing deliberations as she addressed MPs but called on parliament to "come together in a spirit of national unity" to deal with the challenges facing the country.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned Mrs May's election slogans against her, claiming a link-up between the Tories and DUP would be a "coalition of chaos".

"I'm sure we all look forward to welcoming the Queen's Speech just as soon as the coalition of chaos has been negotiated," he said.

"If that's not possible, the Labour Party stands ready to offer strong and stable leadership in the national interest."

A failure to gain support from the DUP would risk the Queen's Speech - which details the government's legislative plans - being voted down next week, and Mr Corbyn has said Labour will be pushing hard for that outcome.

Commenting on the proposed DUP-Conservative deal, Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said her party's priority was "defending the Good Friday Agreement, protecting our public services and establishing an executive based on equality and respect".

"We have yet to see any detail of the discussions between the DUP and Tories," she said.

"But what we do know is that our Executive’s budget and our public services have been systematically slashed by £1 billion as a result of Tory cuts over the past seven years."

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