Monday, February 26

DUP in significant talks with ministers over Brexit deal



Philip Hammond is leading government talks with the Northern Irish DUP in a bid to win their support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

With the Conservative party’s confidence and supply deal with the DUP coming up for review, the chancellor’s involvement indicates there could be a financial incentive to back the plan.

It comes as Ms May’s ministers also continue their efforts to convince Conservative eurosceptics to row in behind her twice-defeated deal, ahead of a new vote on Tuesday.

When the DUP agreed to prop up Ms May’s administration in the commons after the 2017 election, the party negotiated an extra £2bn in spending for Northern Ireland over 2018 and 2019.

Money in the agreement, and potentially the support of the party’s 10 MPs for Ms May, is set to end in June, creating the opportunity for its leader Arlene Foster to negotiate new terms, with the government’s main ask likely to be safe passage of her Brexit deal.

A source said the Unionist party was now engaging in ongoing and significant discussions with government on Friday.

European Council president Donald Tusk met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague on Friday before talks with the bloc’s key power brokers Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Following the talks, Mr Rutte said the current withdrawal agreement is the “only deal on the table”.

Support from the DUP could lead to Ms May’s deal being approved by the commons next week, after it was defeated for the second time on Tuesday by 149 votes.

MPs backed a delayed Brexit beyond 29 March in dramatic parliamentary scenes which saw a majority of the Conservative party in the opposite lobby from the prime minister.

The prospect of a lengthy delay to Brexit has also prompted some Tories to admit that they might now back Ms May’s deal.