Conservatives and DUP on brink of coalition deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May said talks with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist party aimed at securing their support for her minority government were continuing but that a fire in London had taken priority on Wednesday.

May called the snap election in April aiming to win a big majority so that Britain would enjoy a strong hand in Brexit negotiations without opposition parties and Tory rebels holding her back. The expectation is that details of a so-called "confidence and supply arrangement" in which the DUP will guarantee their backing for the Queen's Speech and future government Budgets will be agreed in the coming days.

She told the influential 1922 Committee of backbench MPs that she had got the party into "this mess" by calling the snap election, but she would "get us out of it".

"Bringing stability to the United Kingdom government in and around issues around Brexit, obviously around counter-terrorism, and then doing what's right for Northern Ireland in respect of economic matters".

The Conservative Party fell eight seats short of retaining its parliamentary majority, and is now in talks with Northern Ireland's ultraconservative Democratic Unionist Party - which won 10 seats - to forge an informal alliance.

May, who ahead of last June's referendum supported remaining in the European Union, 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.

Foster and her colleagues were expected to ask for concessions on several Tory policies, including the scrapping of the triple-lock pension scheme, but May has said the NI party will have no veto on major policies.

Foster will nearly certainly ask for greater investment in Northern Ireland as part of the deal, as well as guarantees on support for pension plans and for winter fuel allowances for older people.

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Pressed on the reports, Environment Secretary Michael Gove declined to deny it.

They have previously blocked same-sex marriage being legalised in Northern Ireland.

"Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed", he said.

Foster's rivals in Northern Ireland, such as Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, have objected, describing any partnership between the Conservatives and the DUP as "a coalition of chaos".

"Going overseas and being seen to be the prime minister and talking to the president of a classic move to shore up authority at home", said Colin Talbot, professor of government at the University of Manchester.

He also said that he wanted to take the opportunity to "ensure that a spotlight is shone on [the DUP's] LGBT rights record here".

He also told BBC radio that the government would "walk away" without a deal if the talks break down on ending Britain's four-decade membership of the European bloc.

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