Irish, British PMs to meet to talk Brexit, Northern Ireland crisis

Arlene Foster is in talks with Theresa May

Following a bruising election result in which her Conservative Party squandered a 12-seat majority in Parliament and found itself struggling to form a government, May has attempted to form an alliance with the far-right Democratic Unionist Party. They could be called right-wing as they do not accept same-sex marriage, are climate change deniers and are very pro-Brexit.

Given the high volume of fresh produce trade between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the free movement of goods and workers between the two countries is an important issue for companies on both sides of the border.

This serial instability portends badly for Brexit, which is still officially supported by the Conservative and Labour parties, despite wishful talk by "remainers" of a reversal.

May hoped that, as well as strengthening her own hand, she would humiliate and split the Labour party by winning a thumping majority.

Ahead of the meeting with May, Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill said that any deal between the Conservatives and the DUP in Westminster can not be allowed to stand in the way of the Good Friday Agreement, which sets out the power-sharing process in Northern Ireland. "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.

At Sinn Fein's manifesto launch last month, the party's Northern Ireland leader, Michelle O'Neill, said she was "confident that as the consequences of Brexit become clearer more and more people from a unionist background will be open to the idea of exploring new relationships on this island".

Compounding the pressures on the British leader, she has been widely accused of failing to show enough empathy with victims of a horrific tower block fire in London last week. "The government in Westminster are meant to be neutral when it comes to the Good Friday agreement so that's going to ruin that", Moira Anderson, 54, tells HuffPost UK near Queen's University.

The government meanwhile said the state opening of the British parliament - when May's government presents its legislation programme - will take place on June 21, two days later than planned.

Britain's Brexit minister David Davis said the country wanted to strike "a deal like no other in history" as formal talks on quitting the European Union were set to begin in Brussels on Monday. Even if the DUP abstains from the vote, May should be able to get the Queen's Speech passed.

How Ireland will look post-Brexit could be one of the most sensitive subject of the upcoming talks.

"The two issues - Northern Ireland and Brexit - might end up making the other more hard, in a vicious circle", Usherwood said.

The pair got to know each other when they were each responsible for tourism policy as ministers.

On Brexit, Ms Foster said her party wanted to see "a sensible Brexit and one that works for everybody".

She needs DUP support to prop up her minority government, but is facing mounting criticism - including from former Conservative PM John Major - around cosying up with Arlene Foster.

Talks restarted on Monday in Belfast, under Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire. "So I'm afraid to say there is no goodwill towards her".

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