Con – DUP Supply and Confidence deal should get the UK through Brexit, but what about Stormont?

So the deal is done! (Thanks, Andy.) Welcome to confidence and supply politics, mam… As anticipated, the DUP’s end of the bargain seems pretty watertight in terms of granting the government some stability over the medium to long term…

So what are they getting for this? Well, outside these conditions, a free hand to fall out with the government and force divisions as they see fit. There will be no local pressure in the chamber since all nationalist seats are now abstaining.

There will also be a “coordination committee” to manage disputes and departures between the parties. Crucially, the DUP will not be on the hook for whatever an enthusiastically zealously reforming Tory Minister fancies doing (like the Lib Dems).

And there’s a promise of £1 Billion of new money, which according to the BBC will be part of a package that provides the following:

  • Health: A minimum of £250m, with £200m directed to health service transformation and £50m towards mental health provision. It will also receive £50m to “address immediate pressures”
  • Education: £50m to “address immediate pressures”
  • Infrastructure: £400m for projects including delivery the York Street Interchange, plus £150m to provide ultra-fast broadband across Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s capital budget is currently about £1bn per year.
  • Deprivation: £100m over five years targeted to deprived communities
  • VAT and Air Passenger Duty tax: Agreed to further consultation
  • Corporation tax: Agreed to work towards devolving the tax to Stormont
  • City deals and Enterprise Zones: Agreed to “comprehensive and ambitious set” of city deals and “limited number” of Enterprise Zones

That last may come down to just two, ie Belfast and Derry, although if the English model is to be implemented will be regional, ie broader than the current local authority areas. Why did it take so long? Here’s one reason…

But they will also they’ve won benefits for the broader UK…

The crucial thing from an NI perspective is that it is not narrowly targeted at one community or the other. As such it constitutes something of a virtuous entrapment to persuade Sinn Fein to come back from its current abstention from Stormont.

Will they bite? Sources in Belfast say they’ve been secretly briefed by the DUP all along. So the broad outline of the deal won’t displease them. There’s going to be money do something other than just cut stuff (anathema for a party trying to run as anti-austerity in the Republic).

As with all successful comedies, the secret of when the institutions restart may lie in the timing. The initial oral findings of the RHI has now been put back to October, so they’d be looking for flexibility from the British on that. Or, Step 14 in the Bullick Index:

Odd that after six months of near endless vilification of the DUP by their erstwhile partners in government, that the premier Unionist party should end up negotiating for them both.

Will Sinn Fein play ball? With an election expected in the south, I suspect they’d rather not have to go back to work in the north. It’s a drain on precious political capital and scarce resource that they could do without.

But that would entail turning their back on a deal, the local details of which are yet to be hammered out at Stormont.