Under pressure to soften Brexit, PM May meets Northern Irish 'kingmakers'

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A deal between British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland could be delayed until next week after a massive fire engulfed the Grenfell Towers in London early on Wednesday killing at least six people and injuring 74 others, DUP sources said.

May's Conservative Party, which failed to win a majority in an election last week, has been holding talks with the DUP on securing the support of its 10 members of parliament to pass legislation.

Theresa May insisted the Government was "absolutely steadfast" in its commitment to the Northern Irish peace process as she faced questions on whether a DUP-Tory alliance would put fragile agreements at risk.

But one MP present at the meeting said there was no discussion of a leadership contest, adding "she's won, she's got to be prime minister". The Conservatives are considering an arrangement in which the DUP backs May on the budget and her confidence motions in return for policies favorable to Northern Ireland - a situation that could lead to huge benefits for a small part of the United Kingdom.

She told a meeting of backbenchers that she had got the party into "this mess" by calling the snap election and now "I'll get us out of it".

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 per cent Remain vote and the DUP's desire not to see a return to a hard border with Ireland.

Protestors gather in Newcastle upon Tyne on June 12, 2017 to demand British Prime Minister Theresa May walk away from any alliance with the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party, or else step down.


May, who ahead of the June referendum supported remaining in the European Union, has promised to start the Brexit talks next week but opponents of a sharp break with the European Union took her woes as a chance to push back against her strategy. The Evening Standard, edited by ex-Treasury chief George Osborne, reported that Cabinet ministers have initiated talks with opposition Labour lawmakers to come up with a "softer", less hard-line divorce from the EU.

While Mrs May says they will have no veto on key policies, Mrs Foster says her party has the national interest at heart.

However, the prospect of a deal between the two parties has caused disquiet, with the DUP's anti-abortion and gay rights stance in the crosshairs.

"The parliamentary arithmetic is such that we are going to have to work with everyone", he said.

He told Sky News: "The Prime Minister spoke with, I thought, great authority and also she was generous in acknowledging that the result was not what it should be".

Mr Gove said there was a need to ensure public spending was sustainable but stressed that "we also need to take account of legitimate public concerns about ensuring that we properly fund public services in the future".

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