* May yet to strike a deal to prop up her minority
* Pressure mounting for change in Brexit strategy
* PM has to keep pro-European and Eurosceptic factions happy
By William James and Alistair Smout
LONDON, June 14 Britain entered a sixth day of
political limbo on Wednesday with Prime Minister Theresa May yet
to seal a deal to prop up her minority government and facing
calls to soften her stance on Brexit days before negotiations on
leaving the EU begin.
May's team will resume talks with Northern Ireland's
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on a deal to secure their
support in parliament after the 60-year-old leader failed to win
an outright majority in last week's election - a vote she called
expecting to strengthen her position.
Instead, the shock outcome has left May weakened among her
Conservative Party and thrown open her Brexit strategy to
criticism from peers, some of whom want to ditch the current
plan to leave the European Union single market and customs
May said on Tuesday that talks with the DUP had been
productive - a view shared by DUP leader Arlene Foster - and
that Brexit negotiations would begin as planned next week.
"I think there is a unity of purpose among people in the
United Kingdom," May said following a meeting with French
President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.
"It's a unity of purpose, having voted to leave the EU, that
their government gets on with that and makes a success of it."
But pressure was mounting for May to change course on the
type of Brexit Britain should pursue.
The Times newspaper said finance minister Philip Hammond
would push May not to leave the customs union - an arrangement
which guarantees tariff-free trade within the bloc but prohibits
members from striking third-party trade deals.
The report cited unnamed sources, and the finance ministry
declined to comment.
Nevertheless, it illustrated the challenge May will face in
the remaining days before the EU divorce talks begin: finding a
position that satisfies both pro-European and eurosceptic
factions of her party if she wants to remain in power.
May will also be reliant upon the 10 lawmakers from the
eurosceptic DUP, who would help her edge past the 326 votes
needed in parliament to avoid the government collapsing.
But a deal with the DUP also risks destabilising Northern
Ireland by increasing the influence of pro-British unionists.
They have struggled for years with Irish nationalists, who want
the British province to join a united Ireland.
Former British Prime Minister John Major said he was
concerned May's plan to govern with the support of the DUP could
pitch the province back into turmoil by persuading 'hard men' on
both sides of the divide to return to violence.
Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein said the prospect of a
British agreement with the DUP was causing anxiety and fear.
While the DUP are deeply eurosceptic, they have balked at
some of the practical implications of a so-called hard Brexit --
including a potential loss of a "frictionless border" with the
Republic of Ireland -- and talks will touch on efforts to
minimise the potential damage to Northern Ireland.
Brexit minister David Davis has insisted the approach to the
EU divorce has not changed, but May has recognised that a
broader consensus needs to be built for Brexit and has made
clear she would listen to all wings of the party on the issue.
She will have to manage conflicting demands from within her
own party, including a proposal for business groups and
lawmakers from all parties to agree a national position for
Britain's most complex negotiations since World War Two.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron said May needed to
listen to rival political parties, and that there would be
pressure for a softer Brexit.
May faces a difficult balancing act. Divisions over Europe
helped sink the premierships of Margaret Thatcher, Major and
Cameron, and many of her lawmakers and party membership support
a sharp break with the EU.
The performance of the British economy could also influence
perceptions of Brexit. Government bond prices suffered heavy
losses on Tuesday after consumer price inflation jumped to 2.9
percent in May.
As European leaders tried to fathom exactly how Britain
would begin the negotiations, German Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble said Germany wanted a Brexit deal that would limit
negative consequences for the bloc but also did not want it to
The veteran conservative predicted that Britain would regret
its departure from the bloc at some point in the future.
France's Macron said the EU's door was still open for
Britain as long as the negotiations were not finished, but that
it would be difficult to reverse course.
(Reporting by William James and Alistair Smout; Editing by Tom