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Northern Ireland party agrees to May’s minority government

IANS | London |

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has reached an agreement in principle with UK Prime Minister Theresa May to support a Conservative minority government, the media reported on Sunday.

Conservative Party chief whip Gavin Williamson met DUP leaders in Belfast on 10 June to negotiate a deal, details of which are to be discussed on 12 June at a Cabinet meeting, reports Efe news.

The draft "confidence and supply" agreement specifies that the socially conservative, pro-British Protestant party will support the Conservatives in key parliamentary votes but the two parties will not form a coalition government like the one the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron established with the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015.

"We welcome this commitment, which can provide the stability and certainty the whole country requires as we embark on Brexit and beyond," a spokesman for the Prime Minister's office said Saturday.

The Conservatives lost an absolute majority they had enjoyed prior to the snap election on 8 June, which May had called to strengthen her hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations slated for 19 June.

May's Conservatives won 318 seats in the election, falling short of the 326 required for an absolute majority.

The opposition Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn took 262 seats, gaining 30.

The new Parliament will be sworn in on 13 June, although May has until 19 June to work out the full terms of the Conservatives' agreement with the DUP. That day, Queen Elizabeth II will appear before Parliament and give a speech setting out the new government's agenda.

According to media accounts, internal pressure on May led to the resignation on 10 June of the Prime Minister's two co-chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who have been blamed for their role in designing the Conservatives' campaign and the parliamentary setback.

A few hours after the two stepped down, May named former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, who lost his seat in Thursday's election, as her new chief of staff.

The DUP is a socially conservative party that opposes abortion and gay marriage, and many of its members also are sceptical about man-made climate change and reject the theory of evolution.

May succeeded Cameron last June in the wake of the surprise outcome of the Brexit referendum on leaving the European Union.

In calling for early elections, May said she wanted a strong mandate as her government confronts what are likely to be difficult negotiations with the EU on the terms of Brexit.