Opposition condemns Theresa May’s £1bn deal with DUP
Prime minister says deal will not affect her government’s approach to Northern Ireland
British opposition parties have criticised Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which will secure a parliamentary majority for her government in return for £1 billion in extra spending for Northern Ireland.
The deal, which followed more than two weeks of negotiations, guarantees DUP support for the Conservative government on major legislation during the current parliament.
The arrangement will give the prime minister’s minority government a working majority of 13 for the vote on the queen’s speech this week, as well as for the budget, confidence votes, money Bills and legislation related to Brexit and national security. The DUP’s support for all other Bills will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Ms May said the deal would not affect her government’s approach to Northern Ireland. “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,” she 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.”
In return for its support, the DUP has secured £1 billion in extra spending for Northern Ireland, the abandonment of Conservative plans to cut pensioners’ benefits, and the extension of the Armed Forces Covenant to the North. The covenant, which has guaranteed government support for military veterans and their families since 2000, has not applied to Northern Ireland until now because of sensitivities surrounding the role of the forces during the Troubles.
More than half of the extra £1 billion will be spent on improving infrastructure and extending ultra-fast broadband in Northern Ireland. The rest will go to health, education and support for areas of severe deprivation.
Most politicians at Stormont yesterday acknowledged that Arlene Foster had secured a good deal for Northern Ireland, and the British and Irish governments continued in late night talks with the DUP and Sinn Féin to try to restore the Northern Executive.
“Following our discussions, the Conservative Party has recognised the case for higher funding in Northern Ireland given our unique history and indeed circumstances over recent decades,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said after the agreement was signed in Downing Street.
“Our aim in these negotiations has been to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland and the support measures which we are announcing will be to the benefit of all our people.”
Leaders in Scotland and Wales condemned the agreement and demanded equivalent increases in funding for their countries. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon described the deal as “the worst kind of pork barrel politics” and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones dismissed it as “a straight bung to keep a weak prime minister and a faltering government in office”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to end austerity throughout the UK and not only in Northern Ireland. “The government must immediately answer two questions. 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? This Tory-DUP deal is clearly not in the national interest but in May’s party’s interest to help her cling to power,” he said.
The DUP’s leader at Westminster Nigel Dodds condemned what he called the “faux outrage” which greeted the deal, telling MPs that his party had negotiated with Labour in 2010 and with both Labour and the Scottish National Party in 2015.
But former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine predicted the deal would prove divisive, quoting Enoch Powell’s warning that “once you have paid the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.”