UK Parliament opening date set, suggesting Tory deal reached

Media in London reported Downing Street sources saying there had been "significant progress" made during the talks with the DUP leader, adding the talks had constructive.

The Conservatives have reached a "broad agreement" with the DUP, a source told AFP on Thursday. "It is the only way to unite the country and strengthen our bargaining power with the European Union".

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the government should put economic growth at the heart of its Brexit strategy, comments placing her in the camp of those advocating a closer trade relationship with the European Union, or "soft" Brexit.

She said: "I will be making it very clear that any deal between the Tories and the DUP can not be allowed to undermine the Good Friday and subsequent agreements".

Mr Brokenshire insisted the Government would honour its commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and warned that time was running out if power-sharing was to be restored and a return to direct rule from Westminster avoided.

Both sides had hoped that a deal would be announced on Wednesday.

Seven MPs were elected in Sinn Féin colours last week, although the party has always refused to take up seats in Westminster.

May's office has already said that the senior Cabinet members - Treasury chief Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd - will keep their current jobs, but she is expected to reshuffle the lower ranks of ministers.

Negotiations between the Conservatives and the DUP are understood to be focused on measures to boost the economy in Northern Ireland, as well as proposals to drop some unpopular Conservative manifesto proposals.

A majority in Northern Ireland wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union, though the DUP backed a divorce from the bloc.

While a deal with the DUP would help May stay in power to open Brexit talks that are due to begin next week, it would also risk destabilizing the political balance in Northern Ireland by increasing the influence of pro-British unionists.

Labour's James Dornan asked the First Minister if she shares his concern about the message a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, who have used their veto to block legalising same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland five times, sends to the LGBTI community.

"The prime minister will have to do a lot more, however, to convince us that the DUP tail isn't wagging the Tory dog".

May appointed Steve Baker, a prominent Brexit campaigner, to the Department for Exiting the EU. "The Irish government will be critical to that and they should reassert their role as co-guarantors of our agreements", he said.

Negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union will begin between British and EU officials on Monday, the British government said in a statement today. "Delay to deal with DUP means likely postponement of Queens speech; and possibly Brexit talks", BBC political reporter Norman Smith said on Twitter.

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