DUP, Conservatives agree deal to form minority UK government

A former Tory chairman says a deal with the "toxic" DUP would hurt the party

DUP, Conservatives agree deal to form minority UK government

British Prime Minister Theresa May greets DUP leader Arlene Foster, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson outside 10 Downing Street in London | Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has signed a deal with the British Conservative Party to support Theresa May's minority government at Westminster.

Some stg£1bn (€1.13bn) in concessions have been made to Northern Ireland's largest party, in exchange for support from its 10 MPs on key votes in the House of Commons.

The funding will be laid out over the next two years, DUP leader Arlene Foster said, along with stg£500m (€569m) already committed to the North.

In exchange, the Conservatives will now receive support from DUP MPs on crucial votes in London - includingrelating to the budget, national security and Brexit.

It will also see them support measures outlined in Queen Elizabeth II's speech last week.

Mrs Foster has confirmed that there will be no changes to the triple lock on pensions anywhere in the UK under the deal - with the Conservatives also abandoning plans to means-test winter fuel payments.

The agreement was signed inside Downing Street by Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson and the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson, while the party leaders watched on.

Speaking after the deal was reached, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the confidence and supply agreement "means the DUP will support the Conservative Government on votes on the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

"The agreement makes clear that we remain steadfast to our commitments as set out in the Belfast Agreement and its successors, and in governing in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.

"I welcome this agreement which will enable us to work together in the interest of the whole United Kingdom, give us the certainty we require as we embark on our departure from the European Union, and help us build a stronger and fairer society at home. In the interests of transparency, the full terms of this agreement have been published."

"A strong voice for Northern Ireland"

Mrs Foster added: "We're delighted that we have reached this agreement, which I think works, obviously, for national stability.

"In terms of the Northern Ireland Executive, of course we are determined to see it back in place as soon as possible as well, because we believe we need a strong voice for Northern Ireland when dealing not least with the Brexit issue."

"Our aim in these negotiations has been to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland, and the support measures which we are announcing will be to the benefit of all our people".

A Downing Street spokesman has said all relevant documents pertaining to the DUP-Conservative agreement will be published as soon as possible.

The two parties had been locked in talks for two weeks on a confidence and supply deal to prop up Mrs May's minority government.

The DUP had been seeking tangible benefits in exchange for their support - including investment in health, education and infrastructure.

In relation to the Stormont Executive, Mrs May added: "Time is running short for the parties to come together and reach agreement to re-establish a power-sharing Executive by June 29th.

"I hope the parties will look beyond their differences and come together with a shared sense of common purpose to serve all communities in the best interests of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland needs a functioning devolved government at this important time."

Mrs Foster is now returning to Belfast so those discussions can continue.

Some Conservatives had raised concerns about linking up with the DUP because of its opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Irish reaction

On the deal, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney says: "The content of the confidence and supply agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP is primarily a matter for those two parties.

"I note that the agreement provides for DUP support for British government legislation on Brexit.

"An enhanced Northern Ireland voice articulating an agreed devolved government position could see more effective and inclusive representation of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland at Westminster.

"Inevitably, some of the policy agreement between both parties reflects their long held views.

"However, I welcome both parties recommitment to the Good Friday Agreement and its successors, and the commitment by the British government to govern in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland."

"Nasty party"

It comes as former Tory chairman Chris Patten warned that the Conservatives would look like the "nasty party" if it cut a deal with the "toxic" Democratic Unionists.

"What the DUP want to do is to sell their votes at every opportunity, and this on the assumption that somehow Northern Ireland has been disadvantaged by public spending over the years," Patten told ITV's Peston on Sunday.

"Every vote will cost you. Every vote you will have to find some way of paying for it and then explain to the Scots and the Welsh and people in the North East why they can't have the same thing too."

On Sunday, the DUP's leader in Westminster said those who hold different views on social issues like gay marriage and abortion have no reason to fear the party's influence.

Nigel Dodds said he and colleagues had been misrepresented as "dinosaurs".

He said: "People can always go back through the archives of any political party and find individuals saying things or policies from 20, 30 years ago.

"But they need to read our manifesto and look at the recent years in Northern Ireland where the DUP has been the main partner in government with republicans to move this province forward."