Damian Green has admitted the Conservative Party’s bid to strike an agreement with the DUP may fail, as talks between the two parties appeared to stall ahead of the Queen’s Speech.
The first secretary of state, who is effectively deputy prime minister, told BBC Radio 5 Live this morning “it is possible that we won’t be able to agree” a deal.
Theresa May will unveil her legislative agenda today without having secured a Commons majority almost two weeks after the election.
The prime minister has pinned her hopes on striking a confidence and supply agreement with the 10 DUP MPs that would see the Northern Ireland party back her on important votes.
But the DUP said last night said the talks “haven’t proceeded in a way that the DUP would have expected” and said they “can’t be taken for granted”.
Green later told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme the talks were “much wider” than just the DUP angling for more money for Northern Ireland and covered UK-wide policy. “All talks of this kind take a long time and they are still continuing,” he said.
“There’s still the possibility, there’s every possibility of a DUP deal. The talks have been taking place in a constructive way,” he said.
“Clearly two political parties, we have some differences, but we have a lot in common.
“We are both unionist parties at heart. We are both obviously very concerned with combating terrorism, we both have similar views about delivering a good Brexit for this country and obviously we are very concerned with the Irish border issue.”
May has promised to work with “humility and resolve” as she prepares to set out her legislative programme for the next two years in a Queen’s Speech expected to be dominated by Brexit.
In a mark of the importance of Brexit to 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.
May has been under intense pressure since her disastrous election campaign which saw her lose the majority the Conservative Party won under David Cameron in 2015.
However Green said now was “absolutely not the time” for a leadership challenge and that May would stay as Tory leader “as far ahead as I can see”.
“It is her duty, it is our duty, to present our legislative program to the House of Commons,” the close ally of May said. “She is exactly the right person to lead that government.”