LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to Northern Ireland for support in forming a new minority government now that her Conservative Party has lost its majority in Parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 seats in Thursday’s voting, is entering talks with the Conservatives to discuss how to work together in a new government.
The socially conservative, pro-British and largely Protestant party finds itself in the unlikely position of possible kingmaker.
With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, the Conservatives had 318 — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority. The DUP may provide the missing votes.
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 confirmed that she had spoken to May and would be talking with the Conservatives about “how it may it be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.”
The DUP favors Brexit but wants to preserve its open border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member even after Britain leaves the European Union.
The DUP is opposed to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Party leader Foster is expected to seek concessions in a new government. She has not yet made a public commitment to joining a formal coalition which could see DUP MPs having roles in the government. An informal alliance is also possible.
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 shaky government in the mid-1990s.
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.