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August 20, 2017
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PM Theresa May confident of securing deal to stay in power

UK still without a government, a week after general election, with DUP likely to sign up with Tories

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government said yesterday it would launch her policy programme next week, a sign of confidence she will strike a deal to stay in power after days of political uncertainty since losing her majority.

Conservative Party sources say May wants to show her government is up and running but her loss of authority in last week’s election will make it harder to handle a hectic agenda — Brexit talks with the EU, tackling a slowing economy, a political crisis in Ireland, and a devastating fire in London.

The pound rose after the Bank of England came its closest in a decade to raising interest rates to counter higher prices after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union — a move that could further squeeze Britons with big mortgages.

The London fire, which claimed at least 17 lives, forced the cancellation of the City of London’s Mansion House dinner, where the chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, had the chance to revive calls for a more business-friendly exit from the EU.

After touring the wrecked and fire-blackened apartment block and ordering an inquiry, May returned to talks to try to seal a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to secure the backing of their 10 lawmakers in parliament to help her pass laws and govern as Britain starts talks to leave the EU.

“The talks are ongoing, they are very positive, they are constructive. There is a steady dialogue between the two sides that has never stopped at any point. It continues and when the deal is done, it will be done,” a senior source in the Conservative Party said yesterday.

The Conservatives are yet to agree a deal with the DUP, a week after the general election stripped May of her parliamentary majority.

The prime minister met leaders of Northern Ireland’ other political parties yesterday, some of whom had voiced concerns that a tie-up could destabilise local politics and undermine the British government’s neutrality in overseeing separate talks to form a new power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

“We will oppose any deal which undermines the Good Friday agreement,” Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, told reporters outside Downing Street, in reference to the 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian violence.

UNDER PRESSURE

Her failure to win a majority has put May under pressure over her Brexit plans from inside and outside her party and has prompted complaints about her choice of partner due to the DUP’s stance on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, Northern Ireland’s second-largest Irish nationalist party, said his party had a “positive” meeting with the prime minister over her efforts to come up with a deal with the DUP.

“But we have to be honest, it will take much more than that for us to be convinced that the DUP tail is not wagging the Tory dog,” he told reporters.

Earlier, Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, said the government had agreed with Queen Elizabeth, who reads out the new government programme, that the “state opening of parliament will take place on June 21, 2017.”

The start of parliament has been delayed since last week’s election, a gamble May took to strengthen her hand in talks to leave the European Union but which has left her scrambling for a deal to keep her in power.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s main opposition, said his Labour Party would not support the Queen’s speech to try to force her out of power through a vote of no-confidence.

The Conservative source said: “We’re confident of getting an agreement, we’re confident that the Queen’s speech will be passed.”

May’s programme will most probably have to be watered down, dropping some of her preferred reforms to help get legislation through Parliament and possibly having to give way to other ministers who have strong views over the direction of Brexit. Negotiations are due to start on Monday.

— Herald with Reuters

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