Two shock legal challenges have now made the toppling of Prime Minister Theresa May much more likely. Because they could both either damage or put the brakes on the Conservative government’s DUP deal.
Case one: not without a vote
The Conservative Party performed badly at the 2017 general election; losing its majority in parliament. So it made a £1.5bn agreement – including £1bn of new money – with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In exchange for this “investment”, the DUP agreed to support the government in certain parliamentary votes.
But the government can’t go forward with the deal until parliament gives its approval; a fact that all ministers have kept quiet about.
Campaigner Gina Miller and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) sent a letter to the government, asking about the legal basis of the payment. And the Treasury solicitor admitted that MPs will have to authorise it. Jonathan Jones said that the government will pay the funds using:
long-established procedures, under which central government requests the grant of money by the House of Commons…
Jones added that the payment “will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation”.
As The Guardian pointed out, with the government’s neck on the line, it’s unlikely that rebel Tory MPs will vote against the payment; and neither, of course, will the DUP. But despite May recently vowing that she’s in her job “for the long haul”, dozens of Tory MPs are reportedly unhappy with her leadership. So they could potentially use this vote as a bargaining chip to strike a ‘deal’ of their own.
Plus, as The Guardian notes, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will surely have lots of fun humiliating the government when the vote comes round.
Case two: not outside the law
The Conservative government also faces a challenge to the deal in the High Court. Ciaran McClean from Northern Ireland launched the challenge against it in July, on the grounds that the deal threatens the Good Friday Agreement. He also argues it’s in breach of the Bribery Act.
But the court contacted both legal teams on 8 September, saying it will hear the case quickly. Because of the urgency of the case, the High Court says, proceedings will start with a special sitting on 26 October. According to The Belfast Telegraph, judges will hear the claim in the Divisional Court (with at least two sitting judges).
I am extremely happy that the Court has decided that the issues here are of such magnitude that a special court must be convened to hear what we say.
A closed case?
Due to these challenges, the Conservative government will now have to clear two hurdles to get its deal through: parliament and the courts. Considering that politicians have variously called the deal “grubby” and “shameless”, a “straight bung” or a “protection racket”, its passage through parliament isn’t going to be comfortable for the government.
And with the High Court giving the case urgent, unusual treatment, it may not be all plain sailing there either.
In short, Theresa May’s position – and that of her government – is by no means secure. Mainly because she struck a deal to get there that’s now on very shaky ground.
– You can support McClean’s case here.
Featured image via Youtube