The DUP are 2017’s surprise coalition partners: who are they and what do they want?

Who are the DUP?

The DUP hold 10 of the 18 Northern Ireland seats in the House of Commons. The party was founded by Ian Paisley, and is now led by Arlene Foster. It’s the fifth largest party in the House of Commons. The DUP are a protestant party, and have been gradually gaining power in Northern Ireland since the first peace agreements in 1997.

Views (outside of Brexit)

The DUP are deeply socially conservative. They oppose LGBT rights and abortion rights. They are pro-Union, wishing to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. They are closely linked to the Evangelical Protestantism of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster founded by Ian Paisley.

The DUP have been broadly favourable towards the 2015-2017 Conservative government, with Arlene Foster holding drinks receptions at the Conservative Party Conference in acknowledgement of what has been an informal agreement to broadly support Conservative policy in the past Parliament.

Views on Brexit

Whilst DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that she wishes to avoid a ‘hard Brexit’ this morning, her vision of what constitutes a ‘hard’ Brexit perhaps differs from the general views of the commentariat. The DUP are prioritising the maintenance of a free travel zone between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the absence of a hard border. This does not necessarily imply membership of the EU’s single market.

The DUP’s priorities and objectives for Brexit seem to imply they want a deal on the following lines:

  • Jurisdiction of the ECJ to end
  • A frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to continue
  • Maintenance of the UK-Ireland common travel area
  • Effective, time-bound transitional agreements
  • A comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the European Union

These guidelines are very similar to the guidelines outlined by the Conservatives in their Brexit platform. The UK’s path to Brexit could change based on this election outcome, but providing the UK can negotiate a special agreement for Northern Ireland, it looks likely that the UK’s path to Brexit will continue along very similar lines.

Full DUP EU Negotiation Guidelines:

  1. Successful outward-looking knowledge-based economy in Northern Ireland
  2. Ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the European Union
  3. Maintenance of the Common Travel Area
  4. Strengthened relationships across the four components parts of the United Kingdom with no internal borders
  5. Northern Ireland-specific solutions achieved through active Executive engagement
  6. Particular circumstances of Northern Ireland with a land border with the EU fully reflected
  7. Frictionless border with Irish Republic assisting those working or travelling in the other jurisdiction
  8. Progress on new free trade deals with the rest of the world
  9. Comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the European Union
  10. Northern Ireland established as a hub for trade from Irish Republic into the broader UK market
  11. Customs arrangements which facilitate trade with new and existing markets
  12. Confidence and capacity within local businesses to maximize opportunities
  13. Business to retain competiveness and not face additional costs
  14. Arrangements to facilitate ease of movement of people, goods and services
  15. Proportionate regulatory regime which can promote competiveness, with legislation to suit our local needs
  16. Local input into new UK agriculture and fisheries policies which can offer sustainability and new growth opportunities
  17. Particular importance of agri-food sector to Northern Ireland economy recognised and reflected
  18. Strong protections for agri-food to guard against vulnerabilities to cheap inferior imports
  19. An appropriate support programme for our farmers should continue after we leave
  20. Effective immigration policy which meets the skills, labour and security needs of the UK
  21. Rights of British citizens in the EU and those from EU member states living here safeguarded
  22. Energy market stability
  23. Effective, time bound transitional arrangements where necessary
  24. Higher and further education continuing to attract international expertise and collaboration
  25. Ability to opt-in to EU funds where proven to be cost-effective and add value
  26. Continued participation in funding programmes that have been proven to be of benefit and are open to non-EU members e.g. research funding
  27. Fair share for Northern Ireland from dividends from leaving the EU
  28. UK wide skills and infrastructure funds should be established to lead with an emphasis on regional specialisations
  29. Jurisdiction of European Court of Justice ended and greater control over our laws restored
  30. Positive ongoing relationship with European Union in keeping with Article 8 of Lisbon Treaty.

By Matt Parish

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