26/06/2017 09:23 BST

DUP-Tory Deal To Prop Up Theresa May Could Be Signed 'This Week'

Arlene Foster says deal will be 'totally transparent'.

PA Wire/PA Images

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she hopes to strike a deal with Theresa May “this week” to prop up the prime minister’s minority government.

Over two weeks since the general election May has still not been able to reach an agreement with the Northern Ireland party.

Having lost its overall Commons majority, the Conservatives are hoping the DUP’s 10 MPs will agree to a confidence and supply deal which would guarantee passage of the Queen’s Speech legislative programme.

Speaking to Sky News, Foster said the deal would be “public” and “totally transparent”.

“We’re back in London again and my hope is that we will be able to finalise the deal between ourselves and the Conservative Party,” she said.

“I very much hope that this week we will be able to conclude on two agreements.”

There will be crunch votes on May’s legislative programme this week, the first test of the prime minister’s authority in the Commons since her disastrous election.

Concerns have been raised that a Tory-DUP deal could make it harder for a new power sharing deal between unionist and nationalist parties in Northern Ireland to be agreed.

But Foster dismissed the suggestion. “I think that this agreement will bring the prospects of doing a deal at Stormont closer because this will have a positive impact in relation to Northern Ireland,” she said.

The DUP has made it clear it will only agree a deal if it delivers tangible benefits for Northern Ireland in terms of jobs and investment in health and education.

Many Conservatives are uneasy about the deal with the DUP which has socially conservative views on gay rights and abortion.

Tory grandee Chris Patten said the DUP was “a toxic brand” and warned the prime minister it was in danger of looking like the “nasty party” again.

“Every vote will cost you. Every vote, you will have to find some way of paying for it and then explain to the Scots and the Welsh and people in the North East why they can’t have the same thing too,” he said.

And Sir John Major, the former Tory prime minister, has warned a DUP-Tory deal could put the Northern Ireland peace process at risk.

The uncertainty surrounding the May’s position is also being fuelled by speculation the Tories may soon be thrown into a leadership contest.