UK leader holds alliance talks with NIreland party chief

UK leader holds alliance talks with NIreland party chief

UK leader holds alliance talks with NIreland party chief

British Prime Minister Theresa May neared a deal with a Northern Irish Protestant party to save her premiership on Tuesday as she came under intense pressure to soften her approach to Brexit days before the start of formal European Union divorce talks.

But a deal with the DUP risks destabilising the political balance in Northern Ireland by increasing the influence of pro-British unionists who have struggled for years with Irish Catholic nationalists who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.

The arrival of the DUP's Arlene Foster followed a cabinet meeting, during which ministers went over plans "to deliver the best possible Brexit deal" according to a government spokeswoman.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons, London, during its first sitting since the election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn countered with a bit of previously unseen swagger, wearing a huge red rose - his party's symbol - in his lapel as he sparred with May and taunted her about the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming vote on her legislative program, known as the Queen's Speech.

Ministers have already said that the Queen's Speech may have to be set back from its scheduled date of next Monday June 19, because of the ongoing negotiations.

It comes after Mrs May told Tory MPs: "I'm the person who got us into this mess and I'm the one who will get us out of it".

May in return for the DUP's support, but there are indications the party will be seeking more funding for Northern Ireland programs as well as a softer line on Brexit talks.

Asked if that meant the Government would work with Labour, Mr Gove replied: "Well the parliamentary arithmetic is such that we are going to have to work with everyone".

Mrs Foster was nearly certain to ask for greater investment in Northern Ireland as part of the deal, though changes to security and legacy issues from the Troubles were unlikely to be included in a pact.

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It is thought Mrs Foster, despite being a Brexit supporter, could seek assurances from Mrs May that she will pursue a softer exit from the European Union, given Northern Ireland's 56% Remain vote and the DUP's desire not to see a return to a hard border with Ireland.

Even the idea of an alliance is complicated, however.

"A fundamental part of that peace process is that the United Kingdom government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland".

Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement - which brought to an end decades of violence in Northern Ireland and established the current democratic system in the province - both the DUP and Sinn Fein have to form a coalition, but tensions between the two have led to a stalemate and no executive has been formed.

"The deal will be done", said Jon Tonge, professor of politics at Liverpool University.

The stakes for May are high.

Talks with the DUP broke up on Tuesday night without an agreement, but Mrs May said the discussions had been "productive".

With the two-year clock on Brexit ticking away since March, when a letter from May formally started proceedings, Barnier dismissed suggestion of postponing the negotiations and said such a delay would only prompt further instability.

"I cannot see for the life of me how you can be a neutral facilitator in bringing the parties together, at a very risky time for Northern Ireland politics to get self-government and the legislative assembly back up and running, when your prime ministerial life and your Government's life depends on one of the most influential parties - the biggest party - in Northern Ireland", said Lord Hain.

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