- Democratic Unionist Party seals £1.5 billion agreement with the Conservatives to support their minority government. The deal has committed £1 billion in ‘new’ investment in Northern Ireland, alongside £500 million already available. Theresa May says that the DUP will support the government on votes on the Queen’s Speech, the budget, and Brexit and national security. Deal is a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, where the DUP would vote with government on votes of confidence and budget matters. Jeremy Corbyn says that it is “clearly not in the national interest”.
LONDON – Theresa May has agreed a £1.5 billion deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to prop up her minority government.
The deal is a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, where the DUP will support the Conservative minority government and vote with it on the Queen’s speech this week.
Part of the agreement is a financial package worth £1 billion over two years for Northern Ireland, along with an extra in £500 million of already committed funds being made available to the province.
In a statement Prime Minister Theresa May said I welcome this agreement which will enable us to work together in the interest of the whole United Kingdom, give us the certainty we require as we embark on our departure from the European Union, and help us build a stronger and fairer society at home.”
Speaking in Downing Street, the DUP leader Arlene Foster that her party and the Tories were committed to “building prosperity for all.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “this Tory-DUP deal is clearly not in the national interest but in May’s party’s interest to help her cling to power.”
Speaking to the House of Commons Damian Green, first secretary of state, said “the Conservative party has never been neutral in its support for the union,” but the Conservatives remain “fully committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors.”
In response Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said that it was a “shabby and reckless deal,” and the “true cost for peace in Northern Ireland could be significantly higher.”
The deal means that the pension triple-lock will stay, as will the winter fuel allowance.
Both of these were pledged to be scrapped in the Conservative manifesto. Defence spending will be kept at 2%, and the armed forces covenant will be extended to Northern Ireland.
Foster said that “our aim has been to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland,” and that their “guiding principle has been acting in the national interest.”
May said that “the agreement makes clear that we remain steadfast to our commitments as set out in the Belfast Agreement and its successors, and in governing in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.”
The deal establishes that the DUP will vote with the minority government “on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.”
Commenting on the deal, Corbyn said “Austerity has failed. Cuts to vital public services must be halted right across the UK, not just in Northern Ireland. Where is the money for the Tory-DUP deal coming from? And, will all parts of the UK receive the much needed additional funding that Northern Ireland will get as part of the deal?”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said “the public will not be DUPed by this shoddy little deal. The nasty party is back, propped up by the DUP. While our schools are crumbling and our NHS is in crisis, May chooses to throw cash at ten MPs in a grubby attempt to keep her cabinet squatting in No 10.”
The Conservatives were hopeful of completing the deal between the two parties before the crucial vote on the Queen’s speech this week, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday, which they will need to win.
The DUP have 10 MPs, which when added to the Conservatives 318 gives the minority government a majority of two in the House of Commons.
Talks had been ongoing since the shock general election result which deprived the Tories of their majority, and have been lengthy and troubled as the DUP pushed the government hard for concessions.
Foster admitted that it had been “slow at times,” but both parties “continue to work through the issues.” The DUP leader also said that her party was “at the heart of UK politics and in an incredibly influential position.”
The vote on the Queen’s Speech is expected to be very close, as Labour attempt to defeat the minority government at the first opportunity. The debate over ammendments to the speech is expected to be heated.
Commenting on the lack of an executive in Northern Ireland, the prime minister said: “Time is running short for the parties to come together and reach agreement to re-establish a power-sharing Executive by 29 June.
“I hope the parties will look beyond their differences and come together with a shared sense of common purpose to serve all communities in the best interests of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland needs a functioning devolved government at this important time.”
The Northern Ireland Assembly has been without an executive since January, and negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Fein to re-establish Stormont have their deadline this Thursday, after which direct rule might be imposed from Westminster. Foster said “I very much hope that this week we will be able to conclude on two agreements.”
Foster said that she will be returning to Northern Ireland in order to continue talks over forming an executive. The DUP leader stressed that the deal was “good for the UK, and good for Northern Ireland.”
Leading political figures have warned that a Tory-DUP deal is dangerous for Northern Ireland and the Conservative Party. Former prime minister John Major warned that it could cause a return of violence to the region, and that the government would not be seen as “impartial” in Stormont negotiations.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that by “going into this formal agreement with the DUP you are in serious danger of wrecking the Northern Ireland peace process.”
Former prime minister David Cameron tweeted “task facing PM, given the circs [circumstances], is to deliver the most stable govt [government] possible – today’s DUP deal helps achieve that. All Cons [Conservatives] should support.”