The DUP refused to vote on the Finance Bill as a warning over May’s plans for the Irish backstop. Leader Arlene Foster (pictured) also voiced frustration that her party had not been allowed to see a draft of the Brexit deal before it was debated by Cabinet
The Democratic Unionist Party made its unhappiness with the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal clear last night by abstaining from crunch votes on the Budget.
It refused to vote on the Finance Bill as a warning to Theresa May over her plans for the Irish backstop.
The move put the Government on notice that the DUP is edging closer to ripping up the ‘confidence and supply’ agreement that allows the Conservatives to govern.
The party’s ten MPs prop up Mrs May’s minority administration through a formal deal that obliges them to vote for the Budget, the Queen’s Speech and Brexit legislation.
But amid increasing rancour after Downing Street unveiled the withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of Britain leaving the EU, co-operation between the parties has come under threat.
The DUP has said there is ‘serious trouble’ with the deal, which risks leaving Northern Ireland on a different regulatory footing to the rest of the UK – one of party leader Arlene Foster’s ‘blood red lines’.
A source told the BBC: ‘Tory MPs need to realise that their jobs, their majorities, their careers depend on a good working relationship with the DUP and May doesn’t appear to be listening.’
In an address at the Conference of British Industry’s annual conference yesterday, Mrs May reminded her critics that people’s jobs were on the line if there is no Brexit deal
While the Government won the votes on the Finance Bill, the DUP’s failure to support it in the first two votes were a blow to Mrs May’s authority.
The DUP is pessimistic that she will amend the Brexit deal in any significant way and sees it as driving a regulatory wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Mrs Foster voiced her frustration last week that her party had not been allowed to see the draft of the deal before it was debated by Cabinet.
In a string of other developments yesterday:
- Mrs May insisted Britain will be fully out of the EU before the next general election amid claims that Brexit could be delayed until the end of 2022;
- A Tory plot to topple the Prime Minister lost momentum amid Brexiteer infighting and splits. Senior Eurosceptics have failed to get the 48 letters needed for a confidence vote despite declaring yesterday was the ‘moment of truth’;
- Plans for five Eurosceptic Cabinet ministers to issue an ultimatum to Mrs May over her Brexit deal also fizzled out, with divisions over tactics;
- Spain yesterday threatened to block the Brexit deal after tabling 11th-hour demands about Gibraltar;
- Mrs May resisted pressure from France, Spain and the Netherlands to hand over access to UK fishing grounds as part of the final deal;
- Business leaders backed Mrs May, with Confederation of British Industry chief Carolyn Fairbairn warning that Tory plotters in the ‘narrow world of Westminster’ were indulging in a ‘high-stakes game of risk where the outcome could be an accidental no-deal’. Mrs May is due to fly to Brussels this week for final talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on the deal. The talks are likely to concentrate on the framework for a future trade deal rather than the withdrawal agreement.
Downing Street said yesterday the Prime Minister was, for example, looking to improve the provisions for security co-operation.
In an address at the CBI’s annual conference yesterday, Mrs May reminded her critics that people’s jobs were on the line if there is no Brexit deal.
She said: ‘We are not talking about political theory, but the reality of people’s lives and livelihoods. Jobs depend on us getting this right.
‘What we have agreed unashamedly puts our future economic success, and the livelihoods of working families up and down this country, first.’
She added: ‘Don’t just listen to the politicians. Listen to what business is saying, listen to what business that is providing your jobs, and ensuring that you have that income that puts food on the table for your family, is saying. And business is saying we want a good deal with the EU.’