Newnight’s Nick Watt broke the story just after the regular morning lobby briefing in Downing St
Just minutes before this story broke, a Downing Street source was asked whether the PM felt she could rely on DUP votes.
“The confidence and supply arrangement we have with the DUP is a matter of record,” he said.
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s an answer?
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is planning to vote against the Budget if Theresa May breaches the party’s Brexit red lines, Newsnight has learnt.
The party would end its parliamentary support for the prime minister if she agrees a deal at next week’s EU summit that led to additional checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The loss of the DUP, which won ten seats at the last election, would raise severe doubts about the government’s ability to pass the Budget which is due to be delivered on 29 October.
Losing a budget vote has traditionally been seen as a withdrawal of confidence in the government. One former Tory cabinet minister told Newsnight: “The DUP should be putting the fear of God into Downing St.”
The DUP is growing alarmed because it fears Downing St is edging towards a deal with the EU that may lead to additional regulatory checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
One DUP source told Newsnight: “If we are not happy with what happens next week [in Brussels] we won’t be bounced into anything. If she doesn’t take our concerns on board, we will take the view that Theresa May is not the leader to take us through to a safe Brexit.”
The DUP was concerned after Mr Barnier reportedly told the party in Brussels this week that Great Britain is entitled to sign a traditional free trade deal with the EU. But Northern Ireland would have to be separate and subject to the rules of the single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Voting against the budget is the biggest shot in the locker , short of No in a vote of confidence which would surely follow . It would bring to an end the DUP pact with the Conservatives under very unfavourable circumstances. If they jump the gun at the Budget before the Withdrawal Bill votes later, they’re playing very hard ball indeed – and before they can know exactly what’s going on in Brussels. Reversion to Brexiteer free trade deal still leaves open the border question. If the DUP again voted down any regulatory differences whatever, we are left with No Deal, unless the DUP concede something. Who would then be their friends?
But is perverse effect at work that would strengthen May’s hand in Brussels by increasing her vulnerability at home?
The draft deal on the Northern Ireland backstop, which was agreed last night by UK and EU officials (as I reported) – but not yet by the UK cabinet and EU 27 governments – would I think be acceptable to the DUP, the NI unionist party that props up May.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London