Published: Fri, June 16, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Former Tory PM John Major intervenes over 'fragile' DUP deal

Britain entered a sixth day of political limbo on Wednesday with Prime Minister Theresa May yet to seal a deal to prop up her minority government and facing calls to soften her stance on Brexit days before negotiations on leaving the European Union begin.

The European Parliament, which named former Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt as its Brexit point man previous year, will have the final say on any deal on Britain's exit from the EU.

"We stand at a critical time with those Brexit negotiations starting only next week - I think that stability is important".

Before the election, May proposed a clean break from the European Union, involving withdrawal from Europe's single market, limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

The head of the Democratic Unionist Party has arrived for crucial talks on whether to support Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives in an alliance.

"My understanding is that the DUP, like the Conservative Party, has a shared interest in making sure we have a stable government", he told BBC radio.

An initial round of talks between May and DUP leader Arlene Foster ended with no agreement on Tuesday, although both sides said they were hopeful, with talks to resume Wednesday.

And a Downing Street source said the talks had been "constructive".

That marks the formal state opening of parliament, in which Queen Elizabeth reads out the government program, and suggests that May is confident she will have an arrangement with the DUP by then, preventing the program from being voted down by the other opposition parties.

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Barnier's interview will heap more pressure on May, who called a snap general election to give her a stronger hand at the Brexit negotiating table.

Negotiations between the Conservatives and the DUP are understood to be focused on measures to boost the economy in Northern Ireland, as well as proposals to drop some unpopular Conservative manifesto proposals.

The "supply and confidence" deal would see the DUP back the Conservatives in votes on the Budget and confidence motions.

He added: "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".

"The risk is that Northern Ireland continues to fail to find solutions, and potentially the peace process unwinds", he told AFP.

The nationalist Sinn Fein and SDLP and the cross-community Alliance have all made clear Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire can not chair the ongoing process to restore power-sharing at Stormont due to the perceived conflict of interest.

An election in March saw the Protestant, pro-British DUP finish narrowly ahead of Catholic socialists Sinn Fein.

At the Elysee news conference, Mrs May also defended her attempts to do a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to keep the Tories in power.

- Deal or no deal?

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