As the House of Commons voted on the Finance Bill – which should have been a rubber-stamping of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget measures – the DUP made good on their threat to scupper Theresa May’s parliamentary majority.
Breaking their agreement to supply votes for Theresa May’s Conservative Party to have enough of a majority in the House of Commons in matters such as the Budget and Brexit, after May agreed a £2 billion sweetener for Northern Ireland, DUP MPs abstained tonight and even voted with the opposition on one amendment by Jeremy Corbyn.
If the DUP withdraw from their “confidence and supply”agreement with the government, Theresa May loses her Commons majority, which will spur on ERG hardliners in her party to start a vote of no confidence in her leadership rather than face the prospect of a general election.
Eight of the DUP’s 10 MPs turned up, and in a show of power abstained in votes on the finance bill and voted with the Labour Party on the opposition amendment on child poverty.
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:
“We no longer have a functioning government. With Brexit only a few months away something has got to give.”
The DUP broke their agreement signed in June 2017 which promised: “The DUP agrees to support the government on all motions of confidence; and on the Queen’s Speech; the Budget; finance bills; money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and Estimates.”
DUP sources claimed that this was not a permanent end to their agreement, just a warning.
Their threat is simple. At present the Brexit agreement treats Northern Ireland separately to the rest of Britain, and in their view risks a break up of the United Kingdom.
This will never be acceptable to the DUP who refuse to back Theresa May’s deal in a crucial “meaningful vote” she has promised parliament, if it includes a “backstop” with checks on goods flowing between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
DUP leader Arlene Foster earlier insisted a “false choice” was being offered between this plan and a no deal Brexit with a hard border across Ireland.
In an equally embarrassing set back for Theresa May, she was also forced tonight to agree to publish her full economic advice on the impact of her proposed Brexit agreement compared to the economic impact of staying in the EU.
Previously she had agreed to publish the advice but not the comparison with remaining in the EU. But facing a motion from 70 MPs across both sides of the benches including many Conservative rebels she was forced to back down and agree to publish the details before parliament votes on the Brexit agreement.
The impact studies are expected to show that Britain will be worse off than if the country remained in the EU.