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Here's What The DUP Might Demand From The Tories To Keep Them In Power

The DUP and Tories are working towards a "confidence and supply" deal – but what will it cost the latter?

Originally posted on
Updated on


Paul Faith / AFP / Getty Images

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy Nigel Dodds (l), leader Arlene Foster (c) and Former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Leader, Peter Robinson (r).

Huge questions remain as to what concessions the Tories will have to make to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), after Downing Street announced that the two parties were working towards a deal that will allow Theresa May to stay in power.

However, a document produced by the DUP in 2015 may provide some clues, and suggests the demands will focus more on fiscal policy than on social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights.

After the Conservatives failed to obtain a majority government, May announced she intended to govern regardless through the support of the controversial Northern Irish party's 10 MPs.

Gavin Williamson, the Tory chief whip, arrived in Northern Ireland on Saturday to hold talks with senior DUP figure and MP Jeffrey Donaldson. At the outset, Williamson said his negotiations with the DUP would focus on "how they can best provide support" to the minority Conservative government.

The announcement that a "confidence and supply" deal had been agreed in principle came just hours after he arrived in Belfast. It would see the DUP support the Tories on key votes in return for elements of their manifesto being picked up. Number 10 later rowed back, saying that it was still being finalised.

The partnership has proven controversial, due to the DUP's far-right evangelical Christian ethos which has seen them block LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, as well as supporting the region's abortion ban which means women face life in prison for having a termination.

The DUP has not yet confirmed what demands they will make of the Conservatives. However, the party produced a document in advance of the 2015 general election stipulating their demands from a Conservative party in the event of a hung parliament then.

The document, which includes 45 demands, may prove insightful in revealing what the DUP will ask for in exchange for Tory support. The party's 2015 coalition wish list focused on greater funding for Northern Ireland, as well as a number of symbolic steps for Britain to recognise that Northern Ireland is also part of the UK.

Core demands include Northern Ireland receiving more funding for infrastructure projects, schools and hospitals. They also ask for tougher immigration rules to be introduced across the UK, including that "economic migrants must have contributed to the UK before they are entitled to benefits".

Sam McBride, Political Editor of the Northern Irish newspaper The Newsletter, told Buzzfeed News: "As shrewd negotiators, the DUP have been vague about their precise demands. But the party's 2015 template is the starting point.

"It is overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, financial - a mixture of pork barrel politics and fiscal populism which sits somewhere between the Labour and Conservative economic positions."

The party, which are staunch loyalists and pro-army, also make a number of demands relating to better treatment of soldiers. These include "enhanced support" for the British Army across the UK and an increase on NATO spending to 2% of GDP. They also state that the Battle of the Somme, which is commemorated by loyalists in Northern Ireland, be commemorated across the UK.

The party also make a number of left wing economic demands, including "the removal of the bedroom tax at a national level".

McBride said: "The focus on the DUP's position on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage is unsurprising, but misses the point. That is almost certainly not going to feature in their demands.

The party is also flag-wavingly unionist. The question now is whether specifically unionist demands are made or simply more general requests for money, which benefit most of the population in Northern Ireland."

The 2015 document did not include any references to Brexit as the referendum had yet to happen at that stage. However, the party are staunchly pro-Brexit and support a hard Brexit in terms of the economy and immigration policy. Despite this, the party have opposed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, previously expressing their desire to see no border checks or passport requirements for people travelling between the two states.

It is likely that many of the conditions outlined in the 2015 document will form the DUP's core demands in negotiations this weekend, in addition to their Brexit policies.

May will be hoping the aforementioned social issues stay off the agenda. Some of her own MPs have raised concerns about whether it is appropriate to join forces with the DUP given their regressive treatment of marginalised groups in Northern Ireland.

Conservative MP for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, expressed his distaste at the partnership, tweeting: "I joined a party which introduced equal marriage, backs civil rights and defends freedom of faith."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also expressed concern, telling the BBC she had asked Theresa May for assurances that the party would not accept any reduction of LGBT rights in the rest of the UK as part of the DUP coalition.

Following the hung parliament result, DUP Arlene Foster has not yet revealed any detail of the party's likely demands. In a statement, she said "we are as seized of the interests of the kingdom as a whole as we are of our small Province... we want the best for all of the United Kingdom".

UPDATE

This post has been updated to reflect that Downing Street later rowed back on its announcement that a deal had been reached with the DUP.


Siobhan Fenton is a journalist reporting on gender and politics. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SiobhanFenton

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