Prime minister Theresa May will meet Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, at Downing Street tomorrow as talks continue on an agreement that will see Foster’s ten MPs prop up May’s minority Conservative government.
May and Foster are expected to secure a deal tomorrow which will see the DUP support the Tory government on key votes such as Budgets and confidence motions.
Their meeting follows talks on Saturday between Conservative chief whip Gavin Williamson and his DUP counterpart Jeffrey Donaldson, who are understood to have been discussing a confidence and supply arrangement between the two parties.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Institute for Government fellow Akash Paun explained that in these agreements the smaller party will agree to back the government on important votes and usually receives in return concessions such as budget commitments for its priorities, and rights of consultation as new policies are developed.
“It’s a little bit in between a formal coalition where the two parties would be together in Cabinet and a pure minority government, where a government has no idea on any vote or any bill whether it has the necessary majority – what you get with a confidence and supply deal is a degree of security for the government.”
Paun was the co-author of a 2009 IfG report on minority governments, which explored the factors that have made such arrangement successful – or not – in other countries.
The report advised civil servants that: “Serving a minority administration also requires a different set of skills, including closer monitoring of parliamentary developments and facilitation of inter-party negotiations.”
Although the DUP supports Brexit, it is understood to be demanding that the UK’s departure from the EU does not mean the return of a hard border on the Island of Ireland.
DUP party sources have told the Guardian that as well as ensuring that there are no security checks on Northern Irish citizens entering Britain at the Irish border, the party is seeking aid for Northern Irish farmers to replace the CAP subsidies that will stop when the UK leaves the EU.
The paper also reports that DUP will request a large cut or abolition of airport passenger duty for Northern Irish airports and a major capital spending programme focused on hospitals and schools in the region.
The prospect of a Conservative/DUP deal has prompted concerns about the future of power-sharing in Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement, as it calls into question the UK government's position as a neutral intermediary between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke with May expressing his concerns about the impact of a deal with the DUP. His office said: “The Taoiseach indicated his concern that nothing should happen to put the Good Friday Agreement at risk and the challenge that this agreement will bring.”
A spokesperson from No 10 said: "The prime minister reiterated that the government's approach and objectives in the forthcoming talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive remained unchanged."