4 Oct 2016

Tories look to increase majority with DUP deal

The Irish Times today has a report about Northern Ireland seeking “special status” post-Brexit.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP, is quoted as saying: “What we’re really looking for is a special deal for the island of Ireland which enables free movement of goods and people on the island, and preserves the institutions we’ve created under the various agreements.”

A sign saying welcome to Northern Ireland is seen on the border of Armagh and Louth in Ireland June 27, 2016. Picture taken June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne - RTX2JH24

Officials are looking at whether digital tracking can do the work that customs officers on borders normally do, somehow giving reassurance that large-scale customs avoidance isn’t happening if Britain, as expected, leaves the customs union as part of the Brexit deal.

They’re hoping national insurance number checks could overcome concerns about a immigration flows too.

The DUP are here in Birmingham at the Tory Conference in very big numbers, bigger than I’ve ever seen. They’ve held a very well attended “Champagne Reception” this lunchtime in an art gallery packed with pictures of the Rolling Stones. Hard to imagine Rev Ian Paisley in this setting.

Earlier, Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister and Nigel Dodds, DUP Westminster leader, dropped in on Theresa May at her conference hotel for a coffee.

The government is on a charm offensive with the DUP and the party has never been shy of using its parliamentary strength to best effect.

An early General Election, more talked about at Labour’s Conference than here, may have just got less necessary.

The government has a paper majority of 12. Factoring in the absence of Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take up their seats, and taking out the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, the majority is currently effectively 16.

If the DUP’s 8 MPs regularly voted with the government that would take the majority to 32. No wonder one of the attendees at the DUP devil’s buttermilk reception was the Conservatives’ Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. He’ll be hoping the DUP can make his job easier and they seem decidedly up for that.

It’s not as if the DUP is being lured into the rival camp. There has been barely one word exchanged with the Labour leadership since Jeremy Corbyn took over.

At the commemorations for the Somme centenary, Labour MP Kate Hoey asked Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster if she’d ever met Jeremy Corbyn. Mrs Foster said she hadn’t and so was led over for introductions. Jeremy Corbyn said: “Hello.” And that, friends of Mrs Foster say, is just about the only word exchanged.

In years past, Labour governments cultivated Northern Ireland MPs to help them win knife-edge votes. Labour governments splashed money on Northern Ireland when numbers were tight. Labour is currently in a very different place and the DUP see virtually no common cause with the current Labour leadership.

So the field is open for some kind of Con-DUP arrangement and that’s what seems to be taking shape. It’s not, Arlene Foster insists, a “pact.” It seems more like an understanding: a presumption of support linked to a right to be consulted and looked after.

I thought I saw pound signs in Mrs Foster’s eyes today, and with EU money being whipped away from Northern Ireland, the DUP leader has good reason to be trading.

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4 reader comments

  1. RayGill Gumm says:

    So you’re saying that the Labour Party, which can’t even get along with itself, right now, and at the last election inexplicably ruled out allying with the SNP, should get into bed with the sodding Democratic Unionist Party?!

    What price do you think the DUP would demand for this staggeringly unlikely alliance? Reasonably sure they’d demand concessions on abortion. How do you think that’d play with Labour’s core support? They’d lose my vote in an instant, and I’m not even female.

    The Tories are welcome to them.

  2. Jenny says:

    Given Corbyn & McDonnel’s one-sided support for the IRA, getting the DUP to support the Conservative & Unionist Party, to give it it’s full title, shouldn’t be hard!
    A soft border with the Republic is obviously what’s needed, but I don’t see that it is in GB’s gift: surely the sticking point will be with the EU27?

  3. John Rogan says:

    “Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP, is quoted as saying: “What we’re really looking for is a special deal for the island of Ireland which enables free movement of goods and people on the island…”

    They’re hoping national insurance number checks could overcome concerns about a immigration flows too.” – Gary’s Blog.

    Now, what am I missing here?

    Ireland remains in the EU with the “Four Freedoms” which includes free movement of people in member countries. If the DUP want free movement of people between Northern Ireland and the South, then they would surely have to accept that free movement would have to apply to all who are legally entitled to be in the latter. Namely, all who live in the EU would have the right, if they so wish, to be able to move to Ireland and, I’ve no doubt, legally get a National Insurance number.

    Or do the DUP think the EU27 would allow Ireland and the Northern Irish authorities to impose a second class citizenship on non Irish EU people in a post Brexit scenario? A situation where they either don’t have an NI number or one which would not be valid in Northern Ireland. It is just highly unlikely.

    And if the DUP etc do agree that all EU citizens who are legally living in Southern Ireland should have free movement to the North, do they envisage that they should not legally be allowed to come and work in the rest of the UK? They are a “Unionist” Party after all.

  4. Brendan says:

    Who do these guys think they are… they supported leave… hoping it would fail… and now they want a special all Ireland solution…. the EU should tell them where to go and a hard border is the only solution paid for and enforced by Britain…. it was your decision… you cant have it both ways… jog on DUP!!!!!!

    Brendan, Galway, Ireland

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