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Britain's May to form new government with Northern Irish party

Theresa May to form new government with support from small Northern Irish party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May will form a government supported by a small Northern Irish party after her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in an election debacle days before talks on Britain's European Union departure are due to begin.

A stony-faced Mrs May, speaking on the doorstep of her official Downing Street residence, said the government would provide certainty and lead Britain in talks with the EU to secure a successful Brexit deal.

She said she could rely in Parliament on the support of her "friends" in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party after her governing Conservatives failed to emerge as clear winners.

Confident of a sweeping victory, Mrs May had called the snap election to strengthen her hand in the EU divorce talks.

But in one of the most sensational nights in British electoral history, a resurgent Labour Party denied her an outright win, throwing the country into political turmoil.

Her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by opponents, said Mrs May should step down and he wanted to form a minority government.

But Mrs May, facing scorn for running a lacklustre campaign, was determined to hang on.

Just after noon (UK time), she was driven to Buckingham Palace to ask Queen Elizabeth for permission to form a government - a formality under the British system.

With 649 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats and Labour 261 followed by pro-independence Scottish National Party on 34.

The shock result thrust Northern Ireland's centre-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) into the role of kingmaker, with its 10 seats enough to give the Conservatives a fragile but workable partnership.

Mrs May said: "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."

This was likely to involve an arrangement in which the DUP would support a Conservative minority government on key votes in Parliament but not form a formal coalition.

After winning his own seat in north London, Mr Corbyn said Mrs May's attempt to win a bigger mandate had backfired.

"The mandate she has got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence," he said.

"I would have thought that's enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country."

Conservative Member of Parliament Anna Soubry was the first in the party to disavow Mrs May in public, calling on her to "consider her position".

"I'm afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign," Ms Soubry said.

Mrs May had unexpectedly called the snap election seven weeks ago, even though no vote was due until 2020.

At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from Mr David Cameron.

She had spent the campaign denouncing Mr Corbyn as the weak leader of a spendthrift party that would crash Britain's economy and flounder in Brexit talks, while she would provide "strong and stable leadership" to clinch a good deal for Britain.

But her campaign unravelled after a policy U-turn on care for the elderly, while Mr Corbyn's old-school socialist platform and more impassioned campaigning style won wider support than anyone had foreseen. - REUTERS

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