Monday 16 September 2019

DUP can't be bought to support Brexit deal - Foster warns May

Call for support: UK Prime Minister Theresa May at Queen’s University Belfast yesterday. Picture: Reuters
Call for support: UK Prime Minister Theresa May at Queen’s University Belfast yesterday. Picture: Reuters

Ryan McAleer and David Young

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said her party's confidence and supply agreement with the DUP continues for now.

However, speaking in Belfast yesterday, she declined to clarify if the £1bn (€1.127bn) promised for the North in the deal will still be paid if the arrangement collapses.

The DUP is set to vote against Mrs May's Brexit deal on December 11, which would breach the agreement.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster has described any suggestion that her party's support for the Brexit deal could be bought with further major investment pledges as "offensive".

The two held talks at Stormont House yesterday as Mrs May paid a whistle-stop visit to the North.

At a press conference following the meeting, Mrs Foster was asked whether another "bribe" would win her party round - a reference to the £1bn secured by the DUP as part of the confidence and supply agreement.

"We didn't take a bribe in the first place - the confidence and supply agreement was for all of the people of Northern Ireland," she replied.

"Some of that money has already been delivered. We look forward to the rest being delivered for all of the people of Northern Ireland."

Mrs Foster added: "It is very offensive to raise this in terms of money. We are talking about the constitutional and economic long-term future of Northern Ireland - so the answer is no."

She suggested opposition to Mrs May's deal at Westminster was "coalescing" around the Irish Border backstop proposal - the controversial measure that could see Northern Ireland operate under a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK.

"So if she ditches the backstop there is every reason to believe that this withdrawal agreement could go through," she added.

All five of the main Stormont parties held talks with Mrs May yesterday.

The prime minister also visited Queen's University where she met 60 people from the world of business, education, religion and wider civic society.

It's understood that around £430m of the promised £1bn has already been delivered.

Asked whether the remainder would still be coming to the North, Mrs May side-stepped the question and simply made a plea to all MPs intent on voting down the draft deal.

"Every MP needs to think about the national interest, about delivering on the Brexit vote, but also on the impact their decision will have on jobs and their constituents' livelihoods," she said.

While she confirmed the confidence and supply agreement continues for now, she was less clear on its future after December 11.

Future

"I will be talking to my DUP colleagues as I will be talking to colleagues across the House of Commons of the importance of this vote for the future of the UK.

"I think it's incumbent on every member of parliament to think about the impact of that decision they will be taking on their constituents and on their constituents' futures."

Meanwhile, asked whether she would support Sinn Féin MPs taking their seven Westminster seats to back her Brexit deal, she insisted it was a matter for Sinn Féin to decide upon.

"What my job is about is showing those MPs who will be voting on December 11 on this deal why it is a good deal for the UK," she said.

Irish Independent

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