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May, DUP party close to signing accord to keep Conservatives in power

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-14 08:53

May, DUP party close to signing accord to keep Conservatives in power

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, stands on the steps of 10 Downing Street before talks with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, in central London, Britain June 13, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks lasting two hours at Downing Street Tuesday to discuss an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her minority Conservative government.

May and the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, were both tight lipped after the crucial meeting, but later Foster said on her social media site: "Discussions are going well ...and we hope soon to be able to bring this work to a successful conclusion".

The Northern Ireland party has come to May's aid after last week's general election left the prime minister eight seats short of the 326 seats needed in the House of Commons to command an overall majority.

The DUP's 10 MPs at Westminster would give May the working majority she needs to keep the Conservatives in power.

The deal is complicated by a row between the DUP and the pro-republican Sinn Fein party which led earlier this year to the collapse of the power-sharing Northern Ireland devolved assembly.

The border between Britain's Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is also a major issue in the talks over Britain's departure from the European Union.

With Ireland being a member of the EU, its border would be the only land border between the EU and Britain.

It makes a working deal between the British government and the DUP controversial in both Northern Ireland and the neighboring Republic of Ireland.

In another intervention Tuesday, former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major warned against a pact between May and the DUP.

Commenting during a radio interview, Major warned May a parliamentary deal with the DUP could risk Northern Ireland's peace process and cause resentment in other parts of Britain.

Before meeting Foster, May chaired her first cabinet meeting since the general election.

Later, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "In the first Cabinet meeting since the election, ministers discussed the forthcoming Queen's Speech, including the legislative program required to deliver the best possible Brexit deal for the whole United Kingdom."

The cabinet also discussed the ongoing talks with the DUP to secure a confidence and supply arrangement, added May's official spokesperson.

Media in London reported Downing Street sources saying there had been "significant progress" made during the talks with the DUP leader, adding the talks had constructive.

Camera crews gathered outside Number 10 expecting Foster to address the media at the end of her talks with May. Instead the DUP team left by a back door, while May emerged from the front door without making any comment to waiting journalists.

It caused feverish speculation there may have been a hiccup in the discussions, but this was quickly dispelled.

It is now expected the supply and confidence arrangement will be finalised and signed Wednesday. It is still unclear whether that will give enough time to enable Queen Elizabeth II to perform the formal state opening of parliament on Monday. It has already been indicated the ceremony could be delayed by several days.

MPs, including more than 80 parliamentarians making their debuts after being elected last week, gathered in the House of Commons Tuesday to choose their chairperson, or Speaker, for the coming new parliament.

The outgoing speaker, John Bercow, was re-elected unopposed by the MPs, prompting May to raise laughter when she said: "At least someone got a landslide". It was a reference to the May's government which started their election campaign at the end of April expecting a landslide victory, only to emerge losing their majority.

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