NI Tories' chairman 'quite happy' at PM's talks with the DUP

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has said a change of prime minister was not "on the agenda", but that a Conservative deal with Democratic Unionists MPs to support the minority government may not be sewn up until after the Queen's speech next week.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the talks had begun badly because Mrs May lacked authority and a mandate.

LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - With her strategy unclear and her position insecure, Prime Minister Theresa May plunges this week into tortuous divorce talks with the European Union that will shape Britain's prosperity and global influence for generations to come. He told BBC Newsnight: "We have got off to the worst possible start because the Prime Minister called an election that she didn't need to call".

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives has said that he is "quite happy" that Theresa May is in talks with the DUP about a confidence and supply deal to keep her in office.

He said that the government was now "beholden to one of the most reactionary parties in Europe" and added: "A deal between the two parties will destroy our credibility as a champion of inclusive, liberal values in opposition to the extreme social conservatism of the DUP". "We are having good, constructive discussions and I am confident we will reach a sensible agreement".

The Queen's Speech, which is traditionally surrounded by great pomp and ceremony, was dropped under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government in 2011, with ministers insisting it would give Parliament more time to scrutinise the government's heavy legislative agenda.

May called the election in a bid to increase her majority and strengthen her hand within her party ahead of the Brexit talks.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also backed the PM staying on, saying there was no appetite for further elections.

Grayling said the election, where the Conservatives lost their majority, was a "disappointing result" but said the government needed to carry on.

"Ireland will not sign off on a Brexit deal unless we protect the Good Friday Agreement fully, unless we protect the peace process fully, and unless we protect the normalisation that has been created over a number of decades on the island of Ireland in terms of the relationship between north and south".

"Theresa is leading the government and I think the government needs to get on with the job", he said.

Previously Davis said the issue would become the "row of the summer" but the chief European Union negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain was in no position to dictate the timing of the negotiations.

Barnier, has said Brexit will not be "quick and painless", demanded the United Kingdom pays a 100 billion euro "divorce bill", and suggested European Union courts retain their supremacy over British law after Brexit.

Grayling said the retreat was not symbolic.

The Commission said: "The opening of negotiations at political level next week will focus on issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks".

"As we spoke on the way in, I was reminded of that famous scene in Love Actually where Hugh Grant does his dance down the stairs, but apparently it wasn't filmed here so I didn't get a chance to see the stairs". "We don't want arbitrary caps on migration that would crash the economy".

May will travel to Brussels this week for the European council meeting, where she is set to unveil the terms of a new British offer to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain.



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