A deal almost reached between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been thrown into confusion. May’s office announced on Saturday that the DUP had agreed to support her government on the basis of a “confidence and supply” arrangement in parliament, a development that is due to be discussed in her cabinet on Monday.
“We can confirm that the Democratic Unionist Party have agreed to the principles of an outline agreement to support the Conservative Government on a confidence and supply basis when Parliament returns next week,” said a Number 10 spokesman.
However, the DUP said last night that talks were still continuing, and that the deal has not been finalized yet. “Discussions will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new parliament,” said the DUP leader, Arlene Foster.
In addition to Foster’s statement, No 10 issued a second statement clarifying that no final deal had been reached. The prime minister had discussed “finalizing a confidence and supply deal when parliament returns next week … As and when details are finalized, both parties will put them forward,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
Tory MPs have threatened they would object to a formal coalition, citing the DUP’s position on abortion and climate change and gay rights.
The so-called confidence and supply agreement means that the supporting party will back the government in motions of confidence by either voting in favor or abstaining, while retaining the right to vote otherwise in matters of conscience. ‘Supply,’ on the other hand, refers to bills required for a minority government to receive funds to allow it to enact its policies.
The looser deal on offer would mean that the Northern Ireland party’s 10 MPs back May in key votes but not enter a closer pact with the Tories.
The decision to rule out a formal pact, which could make it more difficult for the prime minister to govern, comes after her trusted joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned following May’s failure to secure a majority in Thursday’s general election.