Official talks on Brexit to start Monday

Party leader Arlene Foster seemed buoyant as she arrived at May's Downing Street office - and her good mood just kept on going.

"I'm the person who got us into this mess and I'm the one who will get us out of it", she said.

Had Theresa May secured a decisive victory in last week's Westminster elections, she probably would have called Northern Ireland's parties to London this week and urged them to complete their power-sharing negotiations.

Philip Hammond wants economic concerns to take centre-stage when Britain starts talks Monday for leaving the European Union, contrasting with a previous emphasis on cutting immigration.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn countered with a bit of previously unforeseen swagger, wearing a huge red rose - his party's symbol - in his lapel as he sparred with May.

Sir John warned of "hard men still there, lurking in the corners of communities deciding they wish to return to some sort of violence", and said that, although the peace settlement was unlikely to collapse quickly, it could "unwind" over time. In the process she has chosen political expediency in the short term for the wider national interest in the longer term.

Ministers have already said that the Queen's Speech may have to be set back from its scheduled date of next Monday June 19, because of the ongoing negotiations. The Evening Standard, edited by ex-Treasury chief George Osborne, is reporting that Cabinet ministers have initiated talks with Labour lawmakers.

He told Sky News that the reality of the election result meant that May and her government would need to reach beyond party lines.

Parliament now "deserves a say", he said, adding that there was "perhaps an opportunity to consult more widely with the other parties on how best we can achieve it".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has long argued that the initial talks should center on brokering deals on citizens' rights, money owed by the United Kingdom and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"All the options are balanced and come with obligations", an European Union official working on Brexit said, noting that May had seemed to be looking for a sweeping free trade deal like that agreed a year ago with Canada but that some of those calling for "soft" Brexit cited arrangements such as those with Norway and Turkey.

Even the idea of an alliance is complicated, however.

However, putting the pro-British unionist DUP in a position of influence in London could also undermine the British government's ability, enshrined in a 1998 peace agreement, to function as an impartial broker between Northern Ireland's unionists and its Catholic Irish nationalists.

Foster's rivals in Northern Ireland, such as Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, have objected.

May is not expected to announce an agreement with the DUP until next week.

The stakes for May are high.

Though on the surface, Thursday's meetings with Northern Irish parties were aimed at breaking the logjam in forming a new cross-party regional government in the province, May needs broader acceptance in the province of a Conservative-DUP deal.

Hague, who supported Remain in the European Union campaign during last year's referendum, warned that May and her ministers "face almost insurmountable constraints and dangers".

"Following discussions in Brussels today, both sides agreed that the formal negotiations under the Article 50 process can now start".

  • Leroy Wright