DUP: Chancellor meeting was not about extra cash

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, speaks outside the Cabinet Office in London's Whitehall on Friday
Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, speaks outside the Cabinet Office in London's Whitehall on Friday

The DUP has said it was “not discussing cash” with the government after meeting the Chancellor and other top cabinet figures today.

The discussions followed the decision of the DUP’s 10 MPs on Thursday to join with the bulk of the Conservative Party in voting against an extension to Brexit – something Theresa May herself had favoured.

The motion passed in the end, largely due to Labour Party support.

After today’s talks, the DUP branded the meeting “constructive”.

The move comes as Theresa May battles to build support for her EU withdrawal deal.

The Prime Minister knows that winning support from the DUP could lead to her deal being approved by the Commons next week when it will be put to a third meaningful vote, after it was rejected for the second time on Tuesday.

Following the top level discussions on Friday, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “We have had a long series of discussions with a series of Cabinet ministers today.

“We have had a constructive dialogue. Those discussions will continue over the coming period of time.”

Asked if extra cash for Northern Ireland had been discussed with Chancellor Philip Hammond, Mr Dodds said: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer is obviously a key member of the Government, but he is also responsible for HMRC and the whole issue of their involvement in customs and other regulatory issues is a key concern for us.”

Other ministers involved in the talks included David Lidington, Michael Gove and Julian Smith, he said.

Mr Dodds said: “We are not discussing cash in these discussions.”

When the DUP agreed to prop up Mrs May’s Government in a confidence and supply agreement in 2017, the party secured an extra £1 billion in funding for Northern Ireland.

Mr Dodds said the Government was now “very focused” on addressing the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

He said: “From day one, our focus has been on the red line of how Northern Ireland is treated separately from the rest of the UK.

“That is the issue that has been the priority concern for us.”

The talks come at a time when European leaders are considering whether or not to agree to UK calls for Britain’s departure to be delayed past March 29.

Any Brexit delay requires the agreement of the other 27 European Union members, with talks about any conditions for an extension set to begin before leaders gather at a summit next week.