The government’s confidence and supply agreement with the DUP continues, Theresa May’s effective deputy has said.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington visited North Belfast on Friday to sell the prime minister’s Brexit deal and said he had received assurances of support from a senior member of the Democratic Unionists within the last 24 hours.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said a Commons amendment supported by backbench Tories giving Parliament a say on invoking the Irish border backstop does not go far enough, adding that domestic “tinkering” to the Withdrawal Agreement would not persuade her party’s 10 MPs to back the government.
Mr Lidington said: “The DUP have made it clear that they see the confidence and supply agreement as continuing.
“As with any minority government there are going to be squalls and difficulties in a Parliament where the government does not have an automatic majority in either House, but that is not something new to British history.”
The parliamentary arithmetic is against the government ahead of next week’s withdrawal treaty vote.
Following an amendment, Parliament would decide whether to trigger the backstop arrangement or extend the transition period beyond December 2020.
Mr Lidington said Members of Parliament have a public duty to act in the national interest.
“The choices are not going to go away as a consequence of postponing the vote.
“The European Commission, the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, other leaders, have all said, very plainly, this is the deal that is available.
“They on the EU side have made concessions to get here, both sides have moved.
“And Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator, has had a lot of flak from governments in Paris, the Hague and other capitals, for making too many moves to help the UK, as they see it.
“So they are not going to move, so the choice becomes if not this deal, what else?
“No other deal is available, therefore it is either crash out, which would do serious damage to businesses large and small, or it is reverse the decision and decide to stay in the European Union after all, which would, I think, come as a heavy blow to very many millions who voted to leave two years ago.”
He said the challenges of coalition government were not new.
“We had it in the Seventies, we had it with the coalition government under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, you have it in a great many European democracies; as a matter of routine you have minority governments and you just have to work through, look for compromises, have discussions. I am very confident that we will continue.”
Mr Lidington visited the premises of Core Systems, which makes technology for use in prisons.
The Federation of Small Businesses hosted a roundtable discussion about skills, trade and export.