THERESA May is said to be nearing a deal with the DUP to allow her to carry on in government.
DUP leader Arlene Foster held talks with the Prime Minister in Downing Street yesterday afternoon and reports claimed an agreement was likely to be signed today.
It is thought the DUP wants investment for Northern Ireland, a softer Brexit and maintenance of the “triple lock” on pensions.
Ms Foster said the negotiations had included Brexit, counter-terrorism and “doing what is right for Northern Ireland”.
It is understood the agreement will involved the DUP’s ten MPs guaranteeing to back the government in votes of confidence and on other key issues.
But as the talks proceeded, Tory grandee Sir John Major voiced concerns about a deal with the DUP.
The former Prime Minister, who began work engaging with the IRA to end the Northern Ireland conflict, said his main worry was the “still fragile” peace process.
He said: “A fundamental part of that peace process is that the UK government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland.
“The danger is that however much any government tries they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal at Westminster with one of the Northern Ireland parties.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams has also objected to a deal, describing any partnership between the Conservatives and the DUP as “a coalition of chaos.”
He said: “Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed.”
And campaign groups and union leaders called on the Prime Minister to give a “categoric assurance” that women’s rights and access to abortion would not be used in any trade-off with the DUP.
In a letter they urged Mrs May not to “turn the clock back” or to turn her back on the women of Northern Ireland. Signatories included the Fawcett Society, TUC, Royal College of Midwives and British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
Ms Foster said on Twitter: “Discussions are going well with the government and we hope soon to be able to bring this work to a successful conclusion.” A Downing Street source said the talks with the DUP had been “constructive” but refused to put a timescale on when they would conclude.
Meanwhile, the Commons met for the first time since the election and unanimously re-elected John Bercow as Speaker. Mrs May quipped: “At least someone got a landslide.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons: “I’m sure we all look forward to welcoming the Queen’s Speech just as soon as the coalition of chaos has been negotiated.
“If that’s not possible, the Labour Party stands ready to offer strong and stable leadership in the national interest.”