Wednesday 20 September 2017

'Let's get to work' - Theresa May is 'confident' Tories and DUP will work together 'in interests of the whole UK'

  • Theresa May addresses media after meeting with Queen
  • May confirms DUP will make up 326 majority
  • Support from Northern Ireland's DUP will prop up Conservatives
  • 'Confidence and supply' arrangement - but not a formal coalition
  • May is confident Tories will work with DUP in 'interest of whole UK'
Arlene Foster's DUP hold the keys to 10 Downing Street
Arlene Foster's DUP hold the keys to 10 Downing Street
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed she will form a government with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Support from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) allowed her Conservatives to reach the 326 seats needed for a majority in parliament.

She spoke briefly to the media following her meeting with the Queen this afternoon.

Mrs May said she was confident that the Tories would be able to work together with the Democratic Unionist Party in the "interests of the whole UK".

"This government will guide the country through crucial Brexit talks that are due to begin in ten days," she said outside Downing Street.

"The government I lead will put fairness and opportunity  at the heart of everything we do - so we will fulfill the promise of Brexit together.

"That's what people voted for last June, that's what we will deliver. Now let's get to work."

This move would make a "hard Brexit" significantly less likely, as DUP leader Arlene Foster is known to be keen to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

According to Sky News, the DUP was considering a "confidence and supply" arrangement which would involve the DUP supporting a Conservative minority government on key votes in parliament but not forming a formal coalition partnership.

Snap election

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Conservative Party HQ in Westminster, London, as her future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Rick Findler/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Conservative Party HQ in Westminster, London, as her future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Rick Findler/PA Wire
Media gather in Downing Street, London, as Theresa May's future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell arrives at Labour Party HQ in Westminster, London, after Jeremy Corbyn called on the Prime Minister to resign, saying she should "go and make way for a government that is truly representative of this country"Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Zac Goldsmith waits for the results for the constituency of Richmond following two recounts at the Twickenham Rugby stadium in west London, as counting is under way for the General Election. John Stillwell/PA Wire
The door of 10 Downing Street, London, as Theresa May's future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
A policeman stands in Downing Street, London, as Theresa May's future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May's chief of staff Nick Timothy and Joint-chief of staff Fiona Hill leave Conservative Party HQ in Westminster, London, as Mrs May's future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned after her decision to hold a snap election disastrously backfired. Rick Findler/PA Wire
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale speaks to the media at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, as counting is under way for the General Election. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, as counting is under way for the General Election. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
SNP supporters at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, as counting is under way for the General Election. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
SNP candidate for Edinburgh South West Joanna Cherry celebrates retaining her seat at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Labour candidate for Edinburgh South candidate Ian Murray celebrates after he retains his seat at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson speaks to the media at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, as counting is under way for the General Election. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, as counting is under way for the General Election. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
SNP candidate Deidre Brock celebrates retaining her Edinburgh North & Leith seat at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
SNP supporters celebrate at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, as counting is under way for the General Election. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Newly elected Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff MP (left) with Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill, at the Omagh Leisure Complex, Co Tyrone. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington, north London, where counting is taking place for the General Election. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, as counting is under way for the General Election. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Liberal Democrats candidate Christine Jardine wins the Edinburgh West seat at Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, as counting is under way for the General Election. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington, north London, where counting is taking place for the General Election. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

British voters dealt Prime Minister Theresa May a devastating blow in a snap election she had called to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks, wiping out her parliamentary majority and throwing the country into political turmoil.

With no clear winner emerging from Thursday's election, a wounded May signalled on Friday that she would fight on. Her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said May should step down and he wanted to form a minority government.

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA

In the aftermath of one of the most sensational nights in British electoral history, politicians and commentators called May's decision to hold the election a colossal mistake and derided her performance on the campaign trail.

She appeared determined to tough it out, however.

Jeremy Corbyn gives a thumbs up as he arrives at Labour Party headquarters
Jeremy Corbyn gives a thumbs up as he arrives at Labour Party headquarters

"Theresa May has no intention of announcing her resignation later today," BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg told BBC radio.

With 649 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats. Though the biggest single winner, they failed to reach the 326-mark they would need to command a parliamentary majority. Labour had won 261 seats.

With complex talks on Britain's divorce from the European Union due to start in 10 days, it was initially unclear who would form the next government.

"If ... the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do," a grim-faced May said after winning her own parliamentary seat of Maidenhead, near London.

Sky News reported earlier that Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was considering supporting the Conservatives in parliament.

The DUP's 10 seats could help them hit the 326 seats needed for a majority.

After winning his own seat in north London, Corbyn said May's attempt to win a bigger mandate had backfired.

"The mandate she's got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence," he said.

"I would have thought that's enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country."

Asked whether Brexit negotiations should be delayed, Corbyn told Sky News: "They're going to have to go ahead because Article 50 has been invoked, the government in office in 11 days time will have to conduct those Brexit negotiations."

"Our position is very clear, we want a jobs-first Brexit, therefore the most important thing is the trade deal with Europe," he said.

Corbyn said Labour was ready to lead a minority government.

Chief among its potential allies would be the Scottish National Party (SNP), who suffered major setbacks but still won a majority of Scottish seats.

Brexit risks

From the EU's perspective, the upset meant a possible delay in the start of Brexit talks and an increased risk that negotiations would fail.

"We need a government that can act," EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "With a weak negotiating partner, there's a danger that the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides."

The EU's chief negotiator said the bloc's stance on Brexit and the timetable for the talks were clear, but the divorce negotiations should only start when Britain is ready.

"Let's put our minds together on striking a deal," Michel Barnier said.

Sterling tumbled as much as 2.5 percent on the result while the FTSE share index opened higher. The pound hit an eight-week low against the dollar and its lowest levels in seven months versus the euro.

"A working government is needed as soon as possible to avoid a further drop in the pound." said ING currency strategist Viraj Patel in London.

Craig Erlam, an analyst with brokerage Oanda in London, said a hung parliament was the worst outcome from a markets perspective.

"It creates another layer of uncertainty ahead of the Brexit negotiations and chips away at what is already a short timeline to secure a deal for Britain," he said.

'Dreadful campaign'

Conservative member of parliament Anna Soubry was the first in the party to disavow May in public, calling on the prime minister to "consider her position".

"I'm afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign," Soubry said.

May had unexpectedly called the snap election seven weeks ago, even though no vote was due until 2020. At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from predecessor David Cameron.

May had spent the campaign denouncing Corbyn as the weak leader of a spendthrift party that would crash Britain's economy and flounder in Brexit talks, while she would provide "strong and stable leadership" to clinch a good deal for Britain.

But her campaign unravelled after a policy u-turn on care for the elderly, while Corbyn's old-school socialist platform and more impassioned campaigning style won wider support than anyone had foreseen.

In the late stages of the campaign, Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London, temporarily shifting the focus onto security issues.

That did not help May, who in her previous role as interior minister for six years had overseen cuts in the number of police officers. She sought to deflect pressure onto Corbyn, arguing he had a weak record on security matters.

With the smaller parties more closely aligned with Labour than with the Conservatives, the prospect of Corbyn becoming prime minister no longer seems fanciful.

That would make the course of Brexit even harder to predict. During his three decades on Labour's leftist fringe, Corbyn consistently opposed European integration and denounced the EU as a corporate, capitalist body.

As party leader, Corbyn unenthusiastically campaigned for Britain to remain in the bloc, but has said Labour would deliver Brexit if in power, albeit with very different priorities from those stated by May.

"What tonight is about is the rejection of Theresa May's version of extreme Brexit," said Keir Starmer, Labour's policy chief on Brexit, saying his party wanted to retain the benefits of the European single market and customs union.

Analysis suggested Labour had benefited from a strong turnout among young voters.

The campaign had played out differently in Scotland, the main faultline being the SNP's drive for a second referendum on independence from Britain, having lost a plebiscite in 2014.

SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it had been a disappointing night for her party, which lost seats to the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Sturgeon should take the prospect of a new independence referendum off the table.

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