LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to Northern Ireland for support in forming a new government now that her Conservative Party has lost its majority status in Parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 seats in Thursday’s voting, has emerged as the most likely partner to form a coalition government. May said Friday she looks forward to working with “our friends and allies” in the DUP.
“Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom,” May said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster is expected to seek concessions as well as senior positions in a new government in exchange for providing the needed seats. She has not yet made a public commitment to joining a formal coalition or an informal alliance with the weakened Conservatives.
Foster said Friday it would be “difficult” for May to continue in her role. “I certainly think that there will be contact made over the weekend but I think it is too soon to talk about what we’re going to do,” she said.
The Conservative Party has depended on Irish politicians before: Prime Minister John Major relied on support from the Ulster Unionist Party to shore up his tiny majority in 1992-1997.
Northern Ireland’s people voted in favor of remaining inside the European Union in last year’s referendum, going against the national trend in favor of Brexit.
The DUP in general favors a “soft Brexit” rather than the “hard Brexit” sought by May, and it wants to preserve its open border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.