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DUP says ‘deal is off’ if Tory promise of £1bn breaks down

Northern party calls story that money must be approved by parliament ‘mischievous’

DUP leader Arlene Foster and British prime minister Theresa May. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/PA Wire

The DUP has dismissed concerns raised over the need for British parliamentary approval for the £1 billion cash boost for Northern Ireland it brokered with the Conservatives to prop up Theresa May’s government as “mischievous”.

Correspondence between businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller and the British treasury lawyer, which emerged on Monday, indicates that parliament will need to approve the provision of the money agreed between the DUP and the Tories in June as part of its confidence and supply arrangement.

The money has yet to be made available, and any additional payments must be authorised by parliament through the normal budgetary process.

According to the lawyers, “no timetable has been established” for the release of the money.

Ms Miller and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain have been seeking to challenge the DUP-Tory deal in court, as they believe the £1 billion funding is improper and discriminatory. The British government rejects this idea.

On Monday DUP MP Sammy Wilson dismissed the attention being paid by the media and others to Ms Miller’s correspondence with the treasury, saying parliamentary approval was the “normal process” for money being allocated and there is “the promise” the money will come.

Mr Wilson told the BBC that if the extra cash promised by the Tories for Northern Ireland is not in the estimates, the “deal is off” .

‘Not new or surprising’

The Tories and the DUP have repeatedly said the £1 billion funding is not dependent on there being an Executive in place at Stormont.

A statement from a DUP spokeswoman said the need for parliamentary approval was “not new or surprising” and said speculation about this matter was a “mischievous process story”.

“All government spending goes through appropriations processes,” the statement read. “In the event of direct rule, it will fall to the chancellor and the secretary of state for NI to bring forward the funding through the parliamentary process as part of the Northern Ireland financial allocations. This will need to happen soon.”

A Downing Street spokesman said, “All UK government spending requires parliamentary authorisation – generally via the estimates and supplementary estimates process. Our focus in Northern Ireland is on restoring power-sharing.”

Gina Miller, who won against the British government in her historic article 50 challenge in the supreme court earlier this year, said: “It beggars belief that, neither at the time the government sealed its dubious deal with the DUP in exchange for their votes in the Commons, nor at any point since, has the government made it clear that the £1 billion of taxpayers’ money for Northern Ireland could only be handed over following parliamentary approval”

Restoring the Executive

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says the Irish and British governments need to “step up and step in” with a proposed deal to restore government in the North if Sinn Féin and the DUP do not come to agreement soon.

On Monday the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP had formal talks with Northern Secretary James Brokenshire and he had informal discussions with Sinn Féin and the DUP, as Arlene Foster is in London.

Responding to the scrutiny of the DUP-Tory £1 billion deal, Mr Eastwood said he had been sceptical of what it meant from the day it was announced and if there was new money for Northern Ireland, “great, let’s get spending it”, but he pointed out parties are not in position to do that at present.

Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, repeated that her party was committed to restoring the Northern Executive but it had to be on a “sustainable and inclusive basis”.