DUP MP says chances of a deal with May up are ‘very good’

22 Jun

The DUP’s chief whip today dismissed claims they are demanding £2billion as a price for propping up Theresa May in power – and said he believed the chances of a deal are ‘very good’.

Jeffrey Donaldson admitted his party was ‘no pushover’ and wanted higher spending on the NHS, education and infrastucture in Northern Ireland.

But he suggested the sticking point that has delayed an agreement for more than a week is a wider rolling back of austerity.

Mrs May has been scrambling to shore herself up in Downing Street after a disastrous election campaign stripped the Tories of their overall majority.

Mrs May, pictured in the Commons yesterday, has been scrambling to shore herself up in Downing Street after a disastrous election campaign

Mrs May, pictured in the Commons yesterday, has been scrambling to shore herself up in Downing Street after a disastrous election campaign

Mrs May, pictured in the Commons yesterday, has been scrambling to shore herself up in Downing Street after a disastrous election campaign

Jeffrey Donaldson admitted his party was 'no pushover' and wanted higher spending on the NHS, education and infrastucture in Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson admitted his party was 'no pushover' and wanted higher spending on the NHS, education and infrastucture in Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson admitted his party was ‘no pushover’ and wanted higher spending on the NHS, education and infrastucture in Northern Ireland

The PM wants the DUP to commit its 10 MPs to a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement that will help stabilise her minority government.

Mr Donaldson rejected reports that the DUP has demanded £1billion for the NHS and another £1billion on infrastructure in the province. 

‘Those figures would not recognise the fiscal reality of the situation in the UK today,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He insisted the prospects for a deal before the votes on the Queen’s Speech on June 29 are ‘very good’.

Mr Donaldson stressed that the DUP’s aim was to help the whole of the UK rather than just Northern Ireland. He said it was ‘tempting’ to say the party had influenced the shape of the Queen’s Speech, adding: ‘It will become evidence when the agreement is published.’ 

Damian Green, Mrs May’s effective deputy, said yesterday that the prospect of an agreement remained a ‘possibility’ but was still not done.

He said: ‘There’s still the possibility, there’s every possibility of a DUP deal. The talks have been taking place in a constructive way.’

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’re both unionist parties at our heart. We’re both obviously very concerned with combating terrorism, we both have similar views about delivering a good Brexit for this country and obviously, we’re both very, very concerned with the Irish border issue.

‘But all talks of this kind take a long time, and they’re still continuing.’

The DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds (pictured in the Commons yesterday) declared he wanted to work with the Government to end the 'dark tunnel of austerity'

The DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds (pictured in the Commons yesterday) declared he wanted to work with the Government to end the 'dark tunnel of austerity'

The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds (pictured in the Commons yesterday) declared he wanted to work with the Government to end the ‘dark tunnel of austerity’

The failure to strike a deal left Mrs May in the embarrassing situation of presenting the first minority government Queen’s Speech in decades yesterday.

A deal with between the Tories and the DUP is still expected before votes on the Queen’s Speech take place next week.

Mrs May’s slimmed down agenda will still almost certainly be voted through – even if she manages to anger the DUP enough they abstain. A DUP vote to install Jeremy Corbyn at No 10 is inconceivable.  

Labour accused Mrs May of presiding over an ‘unprecedented shambles’ today and questioned her ability to cling to power.    

Mr McDonnell said: ‘We are now in a situation where I don’t think they have got the right to govern. However, they are now bringing forward their programme.

‘We’ll seek to amend it. I think there is such disarray now, in the interest of the country, they should stand down and give Labour the opportunity of forming a minority government.

‘They have actually junked the manifesto on which they fought the election, so they have now got no manifesto.’ 

Mrs May needs the support of the ten DUP MPs to keep her in power. But no vote on the Queen’s Speech will take place until next Thursday, so the lack of an agreement is not terminal.

Tory MPs believed the DUP have been talking tough in an attempt to try to secure further concessions.

One said the DUP was ‘flexing its muscles’ in an attempt to show its voters who was in control. And sources familiar with the talks suggested a deal could be completed as early as tomorrow.

And a Conservative source said talks were ‘ongoing’ as they attempt to secure a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement.

The DUP want a series of policy concessions which are likely to come at a high cost to the Exchequer. Its manifesto includes a pledge to reduce corporation tax to 12.5 per cent to match the rate in the Irish Republic.

DUP leader Arlene Foster smiled as she arrived for talks at Downing Street with her deputy Nigel Dodds on Tuesday last week, and she is thought to be driving a hard bargain

DUP leader Arlene Foster smiled as she arrived for talks at Downing Street with her deputy Nigel Dodds on Tuesday last week, and she is thought to be driving a hard bargain

DUP leader Arlene Foster smiled as she arrived for talks at Downing Street with her deputy Nigel Dodds on Tuesday last week, and she is thought to be driving a hard bargain

It also wants to scrap Air Passenger Duty, keep winter fuel payments to pensioners and the state pension ‘triple lock’. The deal is also likely to involve assurances on the level of defence spending in the UK.

Mrs May was forced to seek support from other parties after the snap election left her nine MPs short of an overall majority in the House of Commons.

Speaking outside Downing Street the day after the poll, the PM said that she would ‘continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party’ to ensure she was able to command a majority to get her legislation through.

Ministers are seeking a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, under which the smaller party would remain outside Government but would ensure its survival by supporting it on financial measures and no-confidence votes.

After initial signs of progress, the Conservatives were forced to row back on an announcement that agreement had been reached, and talks have now dragged on for 11 days without reaching a conclusion.

However, the DUP are also strongly opposed to Jeremy Corbyn because of his links to the IRA. After the 2010 election the DUP could have tried to keep Gordon Brown in power, but cannot now play both sides off against each other.

Mrs May has rejected claims a deal with the DUP would undermine the Government’s ability to act as an honest broker in talks on the restoration of devolved institutions and power-sharing in Northern Ireland. 

Sinn Fein has accused Mrs May of breaching the Good Friday Agreement, but hinted that they would tolerate a deal with the DUP if it brought more funding for Northern ireland

Sinn Fein has accused Mrs May of breaching the Good Friday Agreement, but hinted that they would tolerate a deal with the DUP if it brought more funding for Northern ireland

Sinn Fein has accused Mrs May of breaching the Good Friday Agreement, but hinted that they would tolerate a deal with the DUP if it brought more funding for Northern ireland

The Treasury is believed to be taking its time to scrutinise the details – which include significant spending on Northern Ireland. 

There are also complaints about the way No10 is conducting the talks, after a string of core aides – including Mrs May’s chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy left over the election.

WHAT IS THE DUP DEMANDING?

The DUP’s manifesto called for a corporation tax rate of 12.5 percent – the same level as in the Republic of Ireland – or lower.

It also wants air passenger duty abolished for Belfast Airport, again bringing it into line with Ireland. 

Although the party supported Brexit, it is determined there must not be a hard border with the Republic.

The DUP has also made clear it does not believe leaving the EU should hurt the economy – potentially opening the door to customs union membership. 

There could also be pressure for significant spending commitments on infrastructure.

That could range from bus lanes to schools and hospitals.

Downing Street has also been scrambling to deal with crises including the Grenfell Tower blaze and the Finsbury mosque terror attack. 

DUP sources suggested the talks had not ‘proceeded in the way expected’ and warned that its support ‘can’t be taken for granted’.

Party is urging the government to put ‘greater focus’ on the negotiations.

In the days following the bombshell result on June 8, Downing Street declared that the outline of an agreement had been done.

However, they were quickly contradicted by the Northern Ireland party’s leader Arlene Foster.

Mrs May met Mrs Foster in No10 last Tuesday and both parties insist good progress has been made, but no conclusion has been reached.

Some Tories – including ex-PM John Major – have been alarmed that an arrangement with Ian Paisley’s former party could damage the UK government’s claim to be impartial in the Northern Ireland talks.

There are also concerns that the DUP’s stance on issues like gay rights could be toxic for the Conservative brand.

 

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