N.Irish unionists agree 'confidence' deal with Tories


The two top aides to British Prime Minister Theresa May resigned Saturday, shouldering some of the blame for an election that proved a disaster for the Conservative Party, a headache for Britain's exit from the European Union - and potentially a fatal blow to May's premiership.

May's office has already said that the senior Cabinet members - Treasury chief Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd - will keep their current jobs, but she is expected to reshuffle the lower ranks of ministers. But not for some time, let's get this clear.

May announced later that Gavin Barwell - a former housing minister who lost his seat in Thursday's election - would be her new chief of staff.

May had repeatedly ruled out the need for a new election before changing her mind.

She has also said she can not work with or support the Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn.

Many senior Conservatives say May should stay, for now, to provide stability. Since winning the Labour leadership in 2015, few commentators gave him much chance of doing well nationally — he was seen by many as too left-wing, too much of a pacifist, and tarnished by prior associations with the radical group Hamas and the IRA.

May wanted to win explicit backing for her stance on Brexit, which involves leaving the EU's single market and imposing restrictions on immigration while trying to negotiate free trade deal with the bloc. She's now attempting to form a government.

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The Government was not claiming that the DUP had agreed to enter coalition with the Tories, something which would require a detailed agreement, such as that between David Cameron and Nick Clegg in 2010.

In a phone call, Irish premier Enda Kenny told May that forming a minority government reliant on the support of the hardline Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could pose a "challenge" to the 1998 Good Friday peace accords. May's office said Saturday principles of an agreement had been reached, but the two sides later clarified that they are still talking.

He has also said that people will "look back at this whole climate change debate and ask ourselves how on Earth we were ever conned into spending billions of pounds".

However, in the context of what Downing Street had said, the error appears to have been minor.

"If any of that is a condition of confidence and supply it simply won't work".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the government was not looking at a formal coalition but would seek assurances that the DUP would vote with May "on the big things" such as the budget, defence issues and Brexit.

The alliance makes some modernizing Conservatives uneasy.

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Foster has yet to set out her demands but her party wants an end to prosecutions of British soldiers who fought in Northern Ireland and an easing of restrictions on parades.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny tweeted Sunday that he had spoken with May "and indicated my concern that nothing should happen to put (the Good Friday Agreement) at risk".

Such a move would be strongly opposed by the Irish nationalists of Sinn Fein who share power in Belfast under a 1998 peace agreement that ended three decades of violence between nationalists and pro-British loyalists.

The British government doesn't have long to ink a deal.

Her real test is likely to come when MPs vote on her programme after it is outlined in parliament by Queen Elizabeth II on June 19.

As expectations mounted that Labour could draw up its own Queen's Speech, the party leader vowed "we can still do this". Without the amendments, he said Labour would try to vote down the speech.

"I sought, and to be fair to the prime minister, received a categoric assurance that in talking to the DUP that there would be no suggestion of any rollback on LGBTI rights in the rest of the United Kingdom", she told reporters.

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