The DUP probably shouldn’t have retweeted that threat about Brexit

Theresa May & Arlene Foster
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

The DUP has responded angrily to the government’s Brexit plan, saying it could lead to the break-up of the UK. But senior figures in the party made the mistake of using maths to lash out. And the outburst highlighted the party’s unsuitability for government.

Foster’s retweet

As The Canary reported previously, any Brexit deal threatening to “divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom” means crossing a “blood red” line for the DUP. And faced with this possibility, the DUP’s Peter Weir took to social media on 14 November. The party’s leader, Arlene Foster, then retweeted it:

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This thinly veiled threat appeared to reference the fact that the DUP is currently propping up the minority Conservative government.

Budgeting hypocrisy

The DUP tweets led to a backlash on social media. In particular, contributors called the DUP out for using maths to defend itself given the appalling overspend in the renewable-energy heating scheme in Northern Ireland. This was the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). It was nicknamed the ‘cash-for-ash‘ scandal.

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Foster’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) started the scheme in 2012. This scheme is now subject to an investigation and could lead to a tax bill of £700m for the taxpayer.

One trick pony

As a unionist party, the main aim of the DUP is maintaining the union between Northern Ireland and the UK:

Our vision is to maintain and enhance Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom, achieving long-term political stability to deliver a peaceful and prosperous future for our people.

So in exchange for propping up the Tory government, they negotiated a £1.5bn deal for Northern Ireland alone. This speaks volumes about the DUP’s true motivation:

Northern backstop deal

The Brexit backstop deal is to keep an open border on the island of Ireland between the north and south. This would come into play should the UK leave the EU without a finalised deal. At present, there is freedom of movement across Ireland for people, goods and services. Only limited restrictions exist.

It appears now as if Theresa May has accepted a deal that means the whole of the UK would stay in the EU customs union. But there could be additional regulatory checks in place for Northern Ireland. The DUP totally opposes any regulatory checks that apply to Northern Ireland only.

What all this means

Not only is the Tory-DUP confidence and supply arrangement costing the British taxpayer; it’s also putting great strain on an already strained Brexit deal. Brexit negotiations could continue indefinitely. The DUP, meanwhile, has nothing to offer the vast majority of the UK. And given its financial track record, the DUP’s outburst is a reminder of the party’s unsuitability to be in government.

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Featured image via  Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916/Flickr

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