Queen's Speech faces delay as Theresa May and DUP leader hold crucial talks

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Theresa May and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster will hold critical talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration after the Government admitted the Queen's Speech could be delayed.

The Prime Minister will be desperate to get agreement from the DUP to back her legislative programme in the House of Commons or risk her government falling.

Mrs May's authority has been severely diminished after a disastrous general election which saw her lose her Commons majority and a deal with the DUP looks vital for the continuation of Tory rule.

A failure to gain support from the Northern Irish party would risk the Queen's Speech being voted down next week, and Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour will be pushing hard for that outcome.

General Election 2017 aftermath

The Tories and the DUP are considering a "confidence and supply" arrangement which would see the Northern Irish party back the Government to get its Budget through and on confidence motions.

It comes after Mrs May told Tory MPs: "I'm the person who got us into this mess and I'm the one who will get us out of it."

Her most senior minister Damian Green has confirmed the Queen's Speech setting out the Government's programme could be delayed if a deal is not reached in time for it to go ahead on Monday as planned.

The PM told the backbench 1922 Committee on Monday that a deal with the DUP would not affect power-sharing talks in Northern Ireland or LGBT rights.

Mrs Foster has also rejected suggestions that the mooted agreement could undermine a return to power-sharing arrangements at Stormont amid claims from political rivals that the Government's stated impartiality as a mediator would be fatally undermined.

The DUP leader declined to give details of what she termed a "positive engagement with the Conservative Party", but said she would be travelling to London late on Monday for discussions with her team of 10 MPs before a meeting with Mrs May at Downing Street on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams turned Mrs May's own slogan against her to brand it "a coalition of chaos", adding: "Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday Agreement is one which has to be opposed."

It is thought Mrs Foster, despite being a Brexit supporter, could seek assurances from Mrs May that she will pursue a softer exit from the EU, given Northern Ireland's 56% Remain vote and the DUP's desire not to see a return to a hard border with Ireland.

The DUP leader is almost certain to ask for greater investment in Northern Ireland as the price of a deal.

Any demands on maintaining the pensions triple-lock and the universal winter fuel allowance could give Mrs May a convenient excuse to drop manifesto pledges which appeared to be deeply unpopular with voters.

Movement on security and legacy issues from the Troubles may prove more difficult for Mrs Foster to extract from the Government.

The unexpected snap election has already forced the Queen to cancel an Order of the Garter service and to accept a stripped-down State Opening of Parliament. Any further delay could mean her missing planned attendance at Royal Ascot.

Additional delay may be caused by the fact the Queen's Speech is written on goatskin parchment paper, which requires several days for the ink to dry.

The paper does not contain any goatskin but is high-quality archival paper guaranteed to last for at least 500 years.

Pen cannot be put to paper until the exact contents of the speech are finalised, which appears to be dependent on the outcome of Tory talks with the DUP.

While Mrs May appears to have seen off the threat of an immediate leadership challenge, her weakened grip on power has put her under pressure on several fronts.

Her new chief of staff Gavin Barwell has suggested she should take a different approach towards public spending after Labour unexpectedly denied the Tories a majority after running an anti-austerity election campaign.

The PM also faced calls from Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, whose influence has grown dramatically with the election of 13 Tories north of the border, to pursue a softer Brexit with greater focus on the economy and more cross-party input.

In another sign of Mrs May's weakening grip on power, MPs who attended the 1922 Committee revealed she was open to more backbench input on policy and a greater role for Chief Whip Gavin Williamson.