27 Jun 2017

DUP-Tory deal: what follows the stops and starts?

Yesterday No 10 accidentally mis-briefed that the DUP deal was contingent on Stormont power-sharing getting up and running. It set a lot of hares running, briefly, before the correction was rung through.

It was a particularly lively moment because DUP insiders believe that the Northern Ireland office had, at the end of last week, been trying to run the whole Tory/DUP draft agreement past the other Northern Ireland parties before any deal was signed off.

To the DUP, this was an appalling turn of events. It looked to them like handing a veto over the deal to their opponents, Sinn Fein.

It provoked some of the quotations you saw at the end of last week which seemed to suggest the deal might not happen at all.

Instead, the Northern Ireland parties are having to look at the published documents on the pact in the same timescale as the rest of us.

The Coordination Committee which will keep the pact rolling along doesn’t have published personnel because the DUP is hoping it can be adapted depending on who/what is the focus of discussion. This has echoes of the Lib Lab Pact and David Steel’s account of that records the pugnacious Liberal Treasury spokesman John Pardoe in meetings with Denis Healey that resembled man to man combat.

One DUP source said his party now holds the power to decide the date of the next general election and there will be a massive incentive to play it long.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, second left, sits with First Secretary of State Damian Green, left, and Government Chief Whip Gavin Williamson during their meeting with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster, second right, DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, right, inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Monday June 26, 2017. Arlene Foster says that she struck a deal with Theresa May's Conservatives to support her minority government. (Jack Hill/Pool via AP)

The two year “review” allowed for in the agreement was dismissed by some DUP sources as nothing more than a moment to hold the Treasury’s feet to the fire and make sure they have delivered on the promised dosh. Another DUP source suggested it would be a perfect opportunity to go back for more – a break clause not a gentle review. We shall see.

DUP sources say they think that soon, if not in time for the imminent official talks deadline, Sinn Fein will climb back into the power-sharing executive and restart Stormont to make sure they are part of the machinery dispensing the money secured from the government by the DUP. But with Sinn Fein having to reverse their opposition to Arlene Foster’s leadership, republicans will be looking for something to sweeten that pill that goes beyond their longstanding demands. Maybe the recently discovered government magic money tree could help out again?


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