Latest: DUP and Sinn Féin preparing to make deal to restore powersharing, says SDLP

Latest: DUP and Sinn Féin preparing to make deal to restore powersharing, says SDLP

Update 5.49pm: The DUP and Sinn Féin are preparing to strike a deal to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland, the SDLP has said.

Colum Eastwood claimed it is not a matter of if the Executive is restored, but when.

Speaking ahead of round-table talks between the main parties at Stormont Castle on Wednesday evening, the SDLP leader said his assessment of the ongoing negotiations is that both Sinn Féin and the DUP want back into government together.

However, he warned that a deal to restore the Stormont institutions cannot be signed off while the DUP and Tory party continue to negotiate a parliamentary agreement.

"There will be a deal, whether next week or in the autumn, so let's get on with it.

"People need to see certainty here. It is clear people want in. Sinn Féin want in, the DUP want in," said Mr Eastwood.

However, he added: "If people think anyone is going to sign a deal here without knowing what is going to come from London - that doesn't make any sense at all.

"We are all a bit preoccupied with what is going on, or not going on, in London.

"It is quite clear that the DUP and Tory Party aren't quite sure what they are doing, but they need to get on with it because it is affecting the process here.

"People need to know what is coming from that deal."

Referring to reports that the DUP has asked for significant investment in health and infrastructure in Northern Ireland as part of a parliamentary deal, Mr Eastwood said any money secured is for the whole of the North.

"The DUP need to understand that if there is a financial package coming that it is not the DUP's money.

"It is all of the people of Northern Ireland's money.

"We will be asking hard questions about where that money goes.

"We can't have a re-run of the past 10 years when the previous Stormont Executive effectively re-partitioned Northern Ireland economically," he said.

Update 4.30pm: A senior Conservative source declined to comment on BBC reports that the DUP is demanding £1 billion investment in the health service in Northern Ireland and a similar figure for infrastructure projects in return for a "confidence and supply" deal.

The party is also understood to be seeking a reduction in corporation tax, the scrapping of air passenger duty in Northern Ireland and city deals for local councils.

Latest: DUP and Sinn Féin preparing to make deal to restore powersharing, says SDLP

Reacting to the speculation Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael, a former Scottish secretary, said any deal with the DUP which meant extra cash went to Northern Ireland would also require increased funding for Scotland and Wales.

"It will stretch far beyond the North Channel of the Irish Sea," he said.

"They need to spread their largesse.

"I'm a Scot, I never turn down more money.

"The question is where does it come from and how are you going to pay for it?"

He also warned against the constitutional risks of a DUP deal "playing one part of the UK off against another".

"If we have learned nothing else in the last 10 years we have surely learned that the future of the UK as a constitutional union is not to be taken for granted."

Update 11.09am: It is still possible for the British Conservative Party to cut a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, First Secretary of State Damian Green has said.

The comments came after the DUP warned that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot take them for granted.

Mr Green, who is effectively deputy PM, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "There's still the possibility, there's every possibility, of a DUP deal.

Latest: DUP and Sinn Féin preparing to make deal to restore powersharing, says SDLP

"The talks have been taking place in a constructive way. Clearly, two political parties, we have some differences, but we have a lot in common.

"We're both unionist parties at our heart. We're both, obviously, very concerned with combating terrorism, we both have similar views about delivering a good Brexit for this country, and, obviously, we're both very, very concerned with the Irish border issue.

"All talks of this kind take a long time, they are still continuing."

Earlier:

British Prime Minister Theresa May will set out her legislative programme for the next two years in a Queen's Speech today, despite so far having failed to agree a "confidence and supply" agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

A DUP source warned that talks with Tories "haven't proceeded in a way that the DUP would have expected" and a deal was "certainly not imminent". The party "can't be taken for granted", the source cautioned.

Latest: DUP and Sinn Féin preparing to make deal to restore powersharing, says SDLP

For the first time in decades, a British Prime Minister looks set to go into the event unsure of commanding the level of support among MPs needed to avoid defeat on a programme.

However, it is thought unlikely the DUP would vote down the Government's programme in a way which would risk a fresh general election handing power to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

Even an abstention by the DUP's 10 MPs would be enough to guarantee Mrs May's survival.

The State Opening of Parliament has already been delayed two days following the inconclusive election, and will take place without much of its traditionally lavish ceremony.

Now almost two weeks after the election, the programme set out by the Queen at today's State Opening of Parliament will feature "a number of bills" geared towards making a success of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, the Prime Minister said.

She has promised to work with "humility and resolve", insisting that the rest of government business will not be put on hold during the Brussels negotiations, promising measures to build a stronger economy, protect consumers, tackle domestic violence and fix a "dysfunctional" housing market.

Downing Street sources declined to be drawn on reports that the Speech will ditch headline promises from the Conservative manifesto, such as the scrapping of universal free school meals, means-testing of the winter fuel allowance and reforms to social care funding which were branded a "dementia tax" by critics.

In a mark of the importance of Brexit to Mrs May's agenda, the Queen will set out plans not for the usual one year, but for a two-year period taking the Government beyond the expected withdrawal date in March 2019.

Mrs May said the Speech would be about "recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union" and "delivering a Brexit deal that works for all parts of the UK while building a stronger, fairer country by strengthening our economy, tackling injustice and promoting opportunity and aspiration".

Having called a snap election in the hope of securing an increased majority to deliver Brexit in a "strong and stable" way, Mrs May acknowledged that the outcome was "not the one I hoped for".

"This Government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent," she promised.

"We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities."

But she insisted there would be no going back on Brexit, pointing out that more than 80% of voters on June 8 backed parties promising to honour the referendum result.

"While this will be a Government that consults and listens, we are clear that we are going to see Brexit through, working with Parliament, business, the devolved administrations and others to ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal," she said.

Mrs May said last year's referendum vote amounted to "a profound and justified expression that our country often does not work the way it should for millions of ordinary working families".

In response, the Government will bring forward measures to build a stronger economy, improve living standards, build a fairer society and fund public services, she said.


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