How the Con-DUP deal took the Barnett Bypass…

Hat tip to John Campbell on Good Morning Ulster this morning for a link to this interesting piece on what the Barnett Formula is, and what it is not, and how the DUP-Tory deal stands up to scrutiny:

on a technical level, there is nothing in the Northern Ireland agreement that that contradicts any rules or laws. And of course, there are clearly special needs in Northern Ireland that may justify additional spending. However, there are a few reasons why the Scottish, Welsh (and also parts of England) might feel particularly aggrieved.

Firstly, this is the only time (certainly since devolution in 1999) that a decision to allocate outwith Barnett for devolved administrations has been made explicitly to secure the votes of a particular party at Westminster.

Secondly, the allocation of an additional £1bn funding to Northern Ireland over two years represents a particularly large financial settlement to have bypassed Barnett. To secure an equivalent funding increase via the Barnett Formula, the UK Government would have had to increase comparable English spending by £30bn; this in turn would have generated Scottish consequentials of £3bn (i.e. £1.5bn per year for each of the two years). This is clearly a substantial sum, equivalent to almost a 5% increase in the Scottish discretionary budget.

Thirdly, unlike previous Barnett bypasses, the additional funding announced for Northern Ireland isn’t simply for discrete, specific projects – or projects like City Deals which are joint initiatives – but includes a general funding uplift for broad elements of devolved spending.

All of which points to the fact that breaking from Barnett with a bypass was always a political rather than a legal problem. As I pointed out in an interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer yesterday, the fact is tax and spend remains the hands of Whitehall, and the Treasury in particular:

The report continues:

 HM Treasury acts as both rule-maker and referee. It appears to have complete discretion as to what is within and outwith the Barnett Formula, without consulting the devolved governments.

Is it likely they will kick up? Unlikely since even the Labour Shadow Secretary of State recognises that not that NI needs the money, but that thanks to Sinn Fein’s ongoing unilateral action, it doesn’t have a government.

Devolution is not federalism. The most other devolved regions at this stage are likely to resort to is a Ted and Dougall like “Careful now” and “Down with this sort of thing”.

But the perception that NI has been let off austerity (false though it is) could prove corrosive to government cohesion going forward.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Mick.

    Dopes like me would understand more easily if people said OUTSIDE instead of OUTWITH.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a Scots thing, apparently. I’ve even started using it myself occasionally. It has a certain precise and logical attraction to it.

  • David Crookes

    That’s your privilege! But I’ll holdwith my approval if anyone else employs the word inwith a posting. Certain words deserve to be stoodwith.

    It took an acute Slugger-poster the other day to point out that since we’re saving £350 million per week by leaving Europe, the big bill for NI will be paid off in three weeks.

    In some quarters the talk is (that most reliable source) that it took most of a fortnight for Mrs May to persuade the Treasury to pay the bill. I find that bit of talk quite credible (all the brain-dead chanting about ‘toxicity’ withnotstanding).

  • Old Mortality

    I’m not sure that NI hasn’t avoided austerity. I can’t think of any significant cuts with even welfare reform having been pushed along the track. There has been a clampdown on public sector pay but as public sector employees in NI are relatively better remunerated than in the rest of the UK, that’s not imposing any great hardship.


    Its just great news that the D.U,P/Tory deal stands up to scrutiny,Lets just hope the government survives
    for the next 2 years, then lets have a look at both,they have to survive Boilergate and Brixit,
    Will both sides of the Tory party be able to hold their noses,

  • Old Mortality

    I also like it . I think it’s commonly used in Scottish legal documents but not so much in everyday speech. Another I have become fond of is ‘on foot of’ which seems to be confined to the south of Ireland, and maybe only south Dublin. It sounds as if it might also have legal origins.

  • Karl

    The first significant outworking of the Tory / DUP deal is free abortions for NI women in England. Bet Arlene didnt see that coming. She’ll have to justify why in NI women have to undergo the trauma and not insignificant expense of travelling 500 miles to avail the service. Will NHS England do a charge back? Could paying for abortions for NI women be draining NHS NI of significant resources?

    The DUP might wish they hadnt taken the money after all. Its bringing lots of attention and some significant asymmetric pushback .

  • james

    Hmmm…. so free abortions for NI women is now a bad thing.

    Might i suggest you don’t really care either way about women’s rights – and that this is just a convenient vehicle for political point-scoring against the DUP?

  • Skibo

    Mick how on earth is Ruth going to sell this to the Scottish electorate? It was not the DUP on their own that made the deal possible but also the extra 12 Tory seats in Scotland. Just how safe will they be now?

  • murdockp

    The term free abortions is a cheap headline. We don’t use the phrase free cancer treatment on the NHS, or free obesity treatment. The press are using the word free as if there is a queue round the block and a big sign outside saying free terminations. It is simply healthcare treatment for UK citizens being available within other UK jurisdictions. No need for the big fanfare and protest. If we live in a liberal democracy, we have do respect personal choice.

  • Skibo

    Why do you think the public sector are better remunerated than anywhere else?
    They are in relation to the private sector but the public sector in GB? Really?

  • Skibo

    David perhaps you are not aware that at present we have not left the EU so the £350m bogus saving has not happened and will not happen till we leave. Furthermore on leaving, the divorce payments will kick in.
    Brain dead chanting, it seems is not limited to the treasury.
    What I would say in defence of the Treasury is that the DUP deal was a political one and not a financial one. TM did not fully consider how to pay the price of the ten votes and was only concerned at working out how much it would take. the Treasury have to find the money.

  • james

    “In all these headlines by the way, not even a mention of the male who is also 50% part of the pregnancy the woman is left to carry the can and face the vitriol of the protestors.”

    Protestors of whom I am not one.

    Since you bring it up, where do you stand on said male’s ‘right to choose’?

  • David Crookes

    The £350 million thing was a JOKE, Skibo.

  • Karl

    In other articles on the Tory / DUP pact I suggested that they might be better off not to extract explicit concessions and be happy that Corbyn isnt in, brexit is on its way and concentrate on generating some good will to convert to their tangible advantage at a later date.

    Instead they raised their heads above the parapet and everyone looking to make a name for themselves is taking a swing.

    I care deeply about womens health. I even know a few. This sort of issue should have been sorted out years ago instead of having proper debate stymied by the political classes on both sides.

    Given the crowing the DUP have been doing in relation to agreements with nationalism and more recently with the Tories, i find it delicioiusly ironic that their first substantive deal on the national atage has led to what could be a fundamental weakening of their position on the issue in NI.

    If nothing else comes from this other than a normalisation in reproductive rights on the basis of existing uk law then i will be happy. Laughing at the DUP ia just a bonus.

  • notimetoshine

    If the SNP and Labour have any sense they will not shut up about this, a convenient stick to beat the Conservatives with in Scotland. I’m sure the Scottish Conservatives must be working overdrive to spin this.

  • hollandia

    Yep. Hilarious.

  • Skibo

    I tend to agree but it looks like some of the dissenters within the labour party seem more interested in injuring Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity at the moment.
    I don’t agree with the Corbyn ideal on Brexit but I think the Labour MPs would be better shutting up and try and dislodge May before they try to wreck the Labour party again.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque
  • Barneyt

    but is there sufficient separation between English and Scottish Torys to make a comparison. In the context of the UK election, Dumfries and Galloway is no different to Chatham. Don’t quote me on the wards or their persuasion.
    So the Conservative party is a one UK nation party in effect, NI conservatives aside for one minute. A fair comparison would be with say, a Scottish Unionist Party providing 12 seats in support of the government and still having to stand by and watch the DUP secure their bribe. That’s my view, but I don’t detract from the sense of injustice they might feel or the impact this may have on her local credibility

  • Barneyt

    For the government to survive, the assembly must be re-established for two reasons. Firstly, to take the attention from the DUP by putting them back into a local political box that GB cares little about and secondly to justify the spend on NI. There is plenty of ammo for SF to sling at the minute and they can do a lot of damage. Without the executive ( with Arlene or not) this DUPtory arrangement if for a hiding very soon. Its not wishful thinking with respect to the Assembly, but its what I fear will happen. Watch Westminster intervene more with or without direct rule and the DUP will have a red ear I suspect

  • Barneyt

    Deja vu! You seem to be playing the man again. I see Karl pitching nothing but political analysis. Its not an attack on the DUP to suggest they might get bitten by the deal they have struck. Its very different if Karl was clearly willing pain on the DUP but he’s not. He’s also not suggesting that the service available to NI women in England is a bad thing, but merely pointing out that it accentuates the fact that our women still have an arduous slog ahead of them to avail of this “free” service and this could bring unwanted attention i.e. justify why NI women cant receive this service locally. I just don’t know how you arrived at your assessment using solely the words expressed by Karl. I’m guessing you are adding your own context. That detracts from the potential strength of any argument you might present.

  • Barneyt

    That’s a good point James. At what point can a male elect not to be a parent when the would be mother does? I think that’s a blog on its own.

  • Barneyt

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Its normal vernacular and not simply legalese or contractual speak. I became aware of it about 12 years back and when I thrown it in, I get “Wha?”

  • Barneyt

    That’s an withoutstandingnot joke


    Sinn Fein needs to play this slowly.Mrs May made a fool of herself,her government and
    her party.Its going to be fun for the next two years waching both wings of her own party pull
    her string in different directions.She will be a reject altogether if she goes for direct rule.

  • David Crookes


  • Starviking

    If the cost of living is lower than GB they could be effectively better paid.

  • Old Mortality

    Yes. I meant the private sector locally. It is a significant distortion to the local labour market caused by slavish adherence to national parity. Osborne wanted to introduce regional pay settlements in the public sector but I don’t think he ever got round to it.
    As Skibo comments below, they are effectively better paid. For example, most doctors in England would expect to educate their children privately which will cost them at least £15,000 of gross income per child, per annum. I know of one case where this was done at considerable sacrifice. Here, even the most highly paid consultant can provide a child with a comparable education for less than £1,000.

  • james

    And vice versa, of course.

  • lizmcneill

    Are the state schools in England that bad? Thought we were the deprived ones.

  • Reader

    Old Mortality: Another I have become fond of is ‘on foot of’ …It sounds as if it might also have legal origins.
    Or a garbled version of :

  • Old Mortality

    Not everywhere, but in large swathes of the country there would be a preference for private education if affordable. There would also I suspect be a degree of peer pressure – if all your colleagues are going private, you might feel you should be doing the same. For the sake of the children, of course.
    I can remember a time when it was de rigeur for doctors here to send their children to boarding schools. Not any more, which is one reason why there are so few boarding schools left.