Friday 18 October 2019

The price of Brexit - DUP makes final demands over deal support

Kingmakers: Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Kingmakers: Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to learn this weekend the ultimate price of passing her Brexit divorce deal as the DUP outlines its final demands.

The Northern Ireland unionist party, on whom Mrs May relies for a parliamentary majority, has signalled it may be on the cusp of backing her deal.

But talks are due to continue all weekend to secure a breakthrough.

A change of heart by Arlene Foster's party would be seen as key to unlocking a large majority of the European Research Group (ERG) in the Tory party in order to get the deal passed at a third meaningful vote on Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement, believed to be scheduled for early next week.

It is believed that if the DUP gets behind the deal on this occasion, Mrs May is in with a real chance of getting a majority in parliament to vote through the proposed deal, which has been rejected twice already.

The DUP - which has become unlikely kingmaker in Westminster since the snap election in 2017 - met yesterday with a string of senior Tory ministers.

They included UK Chancellor for the Exchequer Philip Hammond, fuelling speculation that it will make a fresh cash demand for Northern Ireland as part of a package to secure its support.

The 2017 confidence and supply deal which underpins Mrs May's government was signed by the DUP after a sweetener of £1bn (€1.17bn) in extra funding for Northern Ireland was pledged.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP's Westminster leader, said talks had been "constructive" and the government was focused on resolving the Irish backstop issue.

Mr Dodds insisted there had been no discussions about "cash", but sources suggested billions could be on offer at a later stage.

Ministers said yesterday they were increasingly optimistic that the DUP could be persuaded to back the deal.

Asked about the talks, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believes Arlene Foster's party does not want a no-deal Brexit.

He said he had an opportunity to meet Ms Foster in Washington.

"I got to hear her perspective and she heard mine.

"I certainly have the sense that the DUP would like the UK to leave the European Union with a deal.

"At the moment they're in discussions with the British government about how they might approach the next vote but they're discussions that I'm not party to."

Securing the support of the Northern Irish MPs is viewed as crucial to Mrs May winning the third vote on her agreement next week.

Irish Independent

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