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LONDON – The Conservative government has not agreed to the terms of a so-called confidence and supply deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, it said late on Saturday evening, backtracking on an announcement made earlier in the day.
“The prime minister has tonight spoken with the DUP to discuss finalising a ‘confidence-and-supply’ deal when Parliament returns next week,” a statement released by Downing Street late on Saturday night said.
“We will welcome any such deal being agreed, as it will provide the stability and certainty the whole country requires as we embark on Brexit and beyond.
“As and when details are finalised both parties will put them forward.”
That statement directly contradicted an earlier release from Number 10 on Saturday evening, which claimed a deal had been agreed on a confidence and supply basis. Confidence and supply arrangements mean that the DUP will back the government if a vote of no confidence is held, and in cases of ‘supply’ – effectively backing the government’s budgets.
Downing Street’s backtrack came after the DUP released a statement just before midnight on Saturday, denying that any arrangement had been made.
“The DUP today (Saturday) held discussions with representatives of the Conservative Party in line with Arlene Foster’s commitment to explore how we might bring stability to the nation at this time of great challenge. The talks so far have been positive,” it said.
“Discussions will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on the arrangements for the new parliament.”
Prime Minister Theresa May dispatched her chief whip, Gavin Williamson, to Belfast on Saturday to hold talks with the DUP, which has faced criticism for its conservative views on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. It had appeared that those talks were concluded, but that has now been shown not to be the case.
May’s minority government needs to rely on the support of other parties to get votes through the House of Commons and for anything else it wants to get done legislatively. In any arrangement, the DUP would also lend its support to form a working majority on issues with which it agrees.
The Conservatives failed to win 326 seats in the general election – the number needed to have an outright majority. But the party still won the largest number of seats and votes – with 318 seats and 12,667,213 votes (42.8% of the overall vote).