Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has hailed the “very good discussions” representatives of her Northern Ireland (Ulster) based party have been having with Theresa May’s Conservatives, with political observers now expecting an official pact between the parties as early as Wednesday.
Hoping to form a parliamentary pact with the DUP after the Conservatives’ collapse in seats following last week’s snap general election, negotiators from Theresa May’s Tories have been hammering out a deal with the ten-MP group Tuesday, in the second day of official talks.
Speaking to the BBC about the progress in negotiations, DUP boss Arlene Foster declined to “negotiate on the airwaves” but praised progress, and gave insight into the areas over which the agreement was being made.
She said: “We’ve had some very good discussions again today, and these discussions continued into the afternoon. I hope we can reach a conclusion sooner rather than later.”
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) June 13, 2017
In words apparently chosen to reassure both her voters in Ulster and politicians in Westminster, Foster said: “It won’t surprise anyone that we’re talking about matters that pertain to the nation generally, bringing stability to the UK government, in and around issued around Brexit, obviously around counter-terrorism.”
Discussions are going well with the government and we hope soon to be able to bring this work to a successful conclusion.
— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) June 13, 2017
As for what she expected in return for supporting the Conservative government, Foster said she had discussed “doing what’s right for Northern Ireland with respect to economic matters”.
This remark could refer to points within the DUP manifesto that aim to make Northern Ireland more competitive for businesses than their southern neighbour, the Republic of Ireland. Amongst those initiatives is a cut of corporation tax to 12.5 per cent — well below the Conservative goal of 17 per cent and the present figure of 19 per cent.
More outlandish is the establishment of “freeports” — tax and customs free trading areas — in “economically underdeveloped parts of the UK”, a sure euphemism for Ulster.
Other ambitions laid out within the DUP manifesto while red-meat for traditional conservatives have caused consternation amongst Britain’s political left. The manifesto promise to “freeze then cut or abolish the TV licence”, and the possibility it may be a price demanded by the DUP for supporting the government, has so worried Labour deputy leader Tom Watson he was motivated to appeal to the Conservatives Tuesday that they would pledge not to scrap the licence fee.
Writing to Conservative Culture Minister Karen Brady, Watson said: “The DUP’s manifesto includes a commitment to ‘freeze then cut or abolish the TV licence’… I urge you to fight hard to ensure that this pledge is not included in any agreement, formal or otherwise, between the Conservative Party and the DUP,” reports The Guardian.
Slamming the BBC’s main source of income, a levy on all homes which have a working television set whether they watch BBC programming or not, the DUP manifesto said: “The TV licence fee is a highly regressive tax which was designed for a different era and a world of communications that no longer exists. The success of Netflix and Amazon streaming services shows that subscription-based media can and does work.”