Boris Johnson has dined with senior DUP figures in Northern Ireland as he aimed to secure an extension to the Westminster deal keeping his Government in power.
The renewal of the Conservatives’ confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP was the focus of the gathering in Belfast on Tuesday night.
The dinner came ahead of a round of meetings between Mr Johnson and the five main Stormont parties on Wednesday.
The bilateral meetings at Stormont House will concentrate on the ongoing powersharing impasse which has seen the region shorn of a functioning government for two and half years.
DUP leader Arlene Foster, deputy leader Nigel Dodds and party whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson attended Tuesday’s dinner with the prime minister.
The DUP’s 10 MPs have propped up the minority Government since the 2017 general election – an arrangement that delivered a £1 billion boost in public spending in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Foster said: “I am delighted to welcome him to Northern Ireland so early in his premiership.
“We want to see devolution restored in Northern Ireland, Brexit delivered and the union strengthened.”
New Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith did not attend. It is understood his absence was designed to underline that the engagement was about the confidence and supply deal, not the powersharing dispute.