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United we stand

DUP signs £1 billion deal to prop up Theresa May's government

Jeremy Corbyn has questioned where the money is coming from.

foster Arlene Foster addressing the media at 10 Downing Street this afternoon Screengrab / Sky News Screengrab / Sky News / Sky News

Updated 6.05pm

THE DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST Party (DUP) has agreed a £1 billion (about €1.14 billion) pact to support Theresa May’s government.

The confidence and supply agreement will see the DUP’s 10 MPs back May following a disastrous general election campaign which saw the Conservatives lose their parliamentary majority.

Speaking to the media outside 10 Downing Street, DUP leader Arlene Foster – flanked by party cohorts Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson – said the agreement will deliver “a stable government in order to further the UK national interest at this vital time”.

The deal will see in the region of £1.5 billion (£1 billion in new money and £500 million in future spending commitments) gifted to Northern Ireland for investment in infrastructure.

“Throughout these discussions we have stuck to the guiding principles of our commitment to acting in the national interest in accordance with our shared objective of strengthening and enhancing our precious union,” Foster said.

She confirmed that the agreement with the Conservatives would see no change to the pensions triple-lock in Northern Ireland, and the universal nature of the winter fuel payment across the UK.

Likewise Britain’s commitment to Nato of spending 2% of GDP on the armed forces remains unchanged.

General Election 2017 aftermath Charles McQuillan Charles McQuillan

This agreement will remain in place for the length of this parliament, Foster said, adding she wanted “to thank the Prime Minister for the spirit in which the agreement had been negotiated”.

She added that she is now returning to Northern Ireland in an attempt to re-establish the Northern Irish executive, which has remained suspended since the Northern election of 2 March 2017.

In a statement, May said the confidence and supply agreement would see the DUP “support the Conservative Government on votes on the Queen’s Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security”.

She added, with regard to the Northern Executive, that she hopes “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”.

The full text of the agreement can be read here.

“An agreement has been signed,” May’s spokesperson said today, not long after Foster arrived at Downing Street.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is among those to have criticised the deal, saying it wasn’t “done in the national interest”. He also questioned where the money is coming from.

Northern Ireland

The agreement comes against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations in the North to restore power sharing. The deadline for that deal to be struck is Thursday.

Speaking on foot of the news, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “I am in Belfast today to assist in the talks aimed at restoring the devolved institutions. A functioning Executive and Assembly is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland. That is my focus and that of the Irish Government.

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,” Coveney said.

Trouble for May

The negotiations mark an important moment in the Prime Minister’s time in 10 Downing Street.

MPs will vote on May’s legislative agenda next week, and opposition parties have vowed to block her programme in what is traditionally seen as a test of confidence in the government.

Members of May’s own party are reportedly lining up to dump their leader if it looks like her government will lose the vote.

Lord Patten, a former Conservative Party chairman, called the DUP “toxic” yesterday. Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme he said:

“The DUP is a toxic brand and the Conservative party has got itself back into the situation where there’s a danger of it looking like the ‘nasty party’, to borrow from Theresa May.

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.

“I mean, tell that to the Marines, Northern Ireland has got a lot of public spending over the years.”

Additional reporting by Cianan Brennan and Órla Ryan

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