In the debate on the Queens speech Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster gave a broad hint that a confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives will be concluded shortly.
But he also disabused us of any notion that because the DUP favoured a “frictionless” border, it also meant they were supporting a version of a soft Brexit. The DUP is sticking with their hard Brexit. Their reasoning is essentially political, that the absence of customs checks in any form on the island of Ireland would mean customs barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This is anathema to the DUP.
Meanwhile Jeffrey Donaldson has played down the Daily Telegraph report that the DUP were demanding sweeteners of £2 Billion – or was it only £1 billion? “Wide of the mark, ” he says. One big problem at the Westminster end is the Barnett consequentials. If Northern Ireland gets more, more money, it follows that we raise the limits for Scotland Wales and English regions poorer than NI to get more. more money too
The Daily Telegraph had earlier reported that the Democratic Unionist Party broke off talks with Theresa May this week as it told her to spend £2billion in Northern Ireland if she wants the party to prop up her minority Conservative Government.
The DUP demanded the cash – which works out as £1,100 per person in the Province – as talks veered dangerously close to breaking down altogether.
The talks became so strained in the past few days that the DUP negotiators in Belfast refused to pick up the phone to the Prime Minister’s team for 36 hours, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Westminster sources said they now hoped a “confidence and supply” deal could be agreed next week, days before Thursday’s key vote on the Queen’s Speech.
The £2billion demand – with £1billion spent on the National Health Service and £1billion on infrastructure – was made by the DUP this week.
The Telegraph story added the bizarre detail
It came as the DUP team decided not to answer their telephones for 36 hours to the Conservative team .
A source said: “They stopped answering their phones. It went on for 36 hours. Number 10 is putting in calls and they are not answering their phones.”
The concern is that these hard demands for cash will make it harder for the Tories and DUP to work together over the next five years.
The demand could cost the UK taxpayer billions more if any of the cash is judged to trigger spending elsewhere in the UK through the Barnett formula.
Typically £1 spent in the Province would require an additional £35 to be found for Scotland, England and Wales.
Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News, who’s a rare Westminster journalist taking an interest in Northern Ireland, said he didn’t expect the deal to be completed this week.
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