Trouble with May’s Northern Irish allies

The Brexit deal with the DUP seems to be falling apart

No surprises here: yet again, this week has deeply shaken the British government and left many of us wondering if we should get used to Brexit chaos.


After losing her majority in 2017, Theresa May was forced into a ‘confidence and supply’ deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. The DUP’s Members of Parliament promised to vote accordingly with May on confidence matters in order to prop up her minority government. The party has been reliably delivering its votes for Theresa May but since the reveal of the Brexit deal, this constancy has come into question.


The DUP’s primary difficulty with the withdrawal agreement is that it threatens the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom; Arlene Foster (DUP leader) has said that the Brexit deal breaks May’s promise to treat Northern Ireland in the exact same way as the rest of the UK. Her main objective is to maintain a smooth cross-border trade and block new regulatory barriers on Northern Ireland exports to the mainland. Considering that the 582 paged withdrawal agreement is legally binding and bears the status of an international treaty, the DUP are justified in the importance they place on the deal having nothing in it that could potentially damage the UK constitutionally as well as economically. This leads us to question the security and integrity of the Union Jack. Like the Tory rebels, the DUP are demanding that Mrs May renegotiates with the EU, and Foster has said that her party may have to rethink the ‘confidence and supply’ deal agreed back in 2017.


However, a no-deal would certainly not suit the DUP as it could diminish their supporting government role and instead put Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, into power. Many hope that the DUP’s fear of losing power will soften their hostility to the Brexit deal but Foster’s party’s next steps remain uncertain. 


Priya V