Brussels left waiting as May tries to clinch deal

2017-06-13 17:02
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons. AFP)

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons. AFP)

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London - British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday failed to strike a government deal in an initial round of talks with Northern Ireland's ultra-conservative DUP party, leaving the EU's Brexit negotiator wondering when divorce talks would begin.

Days after May lost her parliamentary majority in a failed electoral gamble, the premier welcomed the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party to Downing Street in a bid to gain the support of its 10 MPs.

Parliamentary business

"Discussions are going well with the government and we hope to bring this work to a successful conclusion soon," said the DUP's Arlene Foster after the meeting.

May left Downing Street without responding to reporters' questions on whether an agreement had been reached with the DUP, which is needed to help the Conservatives command the majority they lost in last week's election.

A DUP spokesperson said there had been a break in tasks due to parliamentary business. "Hopefully we can make a bit more progress later on Tuesday", he said.

After the discussions May joined MPs in the House of Commons, where opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrived to applause from his lawmakers.

"It is clear that our country faces some of the greatest challenges of our time," she told parliament.

Corbyn warned against a "coalition of chaos" between the Conservatives and the DUP and said Labour was ready to provide "strong and stable leadership", mocking two slogans used by May during the campaign.

The talks revolve around support from the DUP on a vote-by-vote basis in parliament, rather than a formal coalition government.

But the prospect of a deal has caused consternation in Dublin, with Ireland's outgoing premier Enda Kenny warning that such an alliance could upset Northern Ireland's fragile peace.

London's neutrality is key to the delicate balance of power in Northern Ireland, which was once plagued by violence over Britain's control of the province.

Former Conservative prime minister John Major has also raised doubts about the deal and its impact on the province's "fragile" peace.

"The danger is that however much any government tries they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal at Westminster with one of the Northern Ireland parties," he told BBC radio.

Financial market

May has dismissed calls to resign following the dismal election result after calling a vote three years early, in the hope of bolstering her slim majority ahead of Brexit talks starting this month.

But a lacklustre campaign saw her high approval rating slip away, and support for her "hard Brexit" strategy - pulling out of the European single market and customs union - now hangs in the balance.

The EU meanwhile unveiled plans to give itself new powers over London's banking business after Brexit, in what could be a blow to the city's supremacy as a global financial hub.

The draft law would empower Europe to decide if post-Brexit London has the right to host financial market "clearing houses" that deal in euros, the EU's single currency.


Read more on:    brexit  |  ireland  |  uk  |  elections

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