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'Consequences were inevitable': DUP flexes muscles and votes against Tories in Brexit row

Sammy Wilson MP said that the decision was taken to show the party’s ‘displeasure’.

Updated Nov 20th 2018, 3:24 PM

THE DUP VOTED against the Conservative Party in the House of Commons last night, in a move aimed at showing the party’s “displeasure” at the draft Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s governing party does not have a majority in parliament and is reliant on DUP votes to pass bills, giving the DUP an influential position.

The Northern Irish party and its 10 MPs have a confidence and supply deal with May’s government but this has been strained by Brexit negotiations.

Last night, the DUP abstained in a number of votes and voted with the Labour party on another, with Sammy Wilson MP saying this was an ‘inevitable consequence’ of May’s draft Brexit deal.

The DUP is unhappy with the backstop element within the draft deal which would see Northern Ireland remaining in alignment with EU regulations when the rest of the UK may differ in some areas.  

Although the DUP did not vote with the Conservatives in the votes, the government was not defeated as there were not sufficient votes on the opposition side. 

After the vote, Wilson tweeted that the UK government had gone back on promises made to the DUP and that “consequences were inevitable”.

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight after the Commons votes, Wilson outined how important the DUP has been to ensuring May’s government has a working majority. 

“We have been extreme in honouring our agreement with the government, we have saved domestic legislation about 20% of the time and Brexit legislation on 50% of the votes,” he said.

But tonight we took the view that since the government had broken one of the fundamental agreements they had with us, namely that they would deliver Brexit for the people of the United Kingdom as a whole and secondly that they would not separate Northern Ireland constitutionally or economically from the United Kingdom, we had to do something to show our displeasure. 

“And what we did tonight was we abstained on a number of votes, we voted with the Labour party on won vote. None of them have financial consequences but they were designed to send a message.”

Following on from the the DUP’s decision not to support the government, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the Tories should “stand aside”.

“Constitutional custom and practice in this country dictate that if a party in government cannot command a majority in parliament it should stand aside and allow the opposition party the opportunity to seek to form a government. We are now clearly moving into this territory,” McDonnell tweeted.

Meanwhile, Brexit-supporting MPs in May’s own party blamed a “tactical disagreement” for failing to unseat her over the divorce deal with the EU.

Some members of the hardline European Research Group (ERG) had last week warned of an imminent vote of no confidence in her leadership, but the required 48 letters of support from MPs has so far failed to materialise.

Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said many eurosceptics believed they should challenge May when parliament votes on the Brexit deal early next month.

“There are many people who are expecting to oppose the deal in the vote and they think that is the time to write letters rather than now,” he told reporters this morning.

That’s a perfectly reasonable thing for them to think. I’d also emphasise that I’m a backbench MP, I express my view and people can agree with it or disagree with it.

Rees-Mogg told reporters that he believes enough backbenchers will turn against May out of fear that not doing so will mean she leads them into the next general election.  

May’s party lost her parliamentary majority in June 2017 after she called a snap general election. Many within the party blamed May’s campaign for its poor return at the polls. 

Rees-Mogg’s announcement  last week that he had submitted his own letter came just hours after two ministers quit over May’s Brexit deal, raising real fears the government could collapse.

ERG organiser Steve Baker, who quit as a junior Brexit minister earlier this year over May’s approach, said: “The challenge is a rolling one.

“There is tactical disagreement among various colleagues about whether to go now or after the meaningful vote has been lost.

“They’re more likely to defeat the prime minister after she’s lost the meaningful vote, and that’s what’s holding back a number of colleagues.”

He claims more than 70 Conservative MPs oppose May’s Brexit deal, while the Labour opposition Labour and Scottish National Party have also pledged to reject it.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2018

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Rónán Duffy

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