The DUP’s negotiators broke off contact with Downing Street for 36 hours this week and refused to take Number 10’s calls, it has been claimed, as the party attempts to extract further money from the government.
The DUP, whose unattributable briefings to journalists have become increasingly belligerent this week, is still talking to the Tories about the price of its support for Theresa May even though the DUP leader campaigned for Mrs May and the party has already made clear that it will not bring down her government.
Earlier this week the DUP warned the Conservative not to take it for granted, amid reports – which the party denied – that it had demanded £2 billion of additional public spending in Northern Ireland.
BBC Newsnight claimed that the DUP had been wanting £2 billion, having turned down a Conservative offer of £750 million.
Yesterday more detail emerged about the non-financial aspects of what the DUP is seeking in the talks, with a DUP claim that the Tories have already agreed to extend the Armed Forces covenant to Northern Ireland.
But the sense that the DUP is playing hardball with the government continued, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that the DUP refused to answer phone calls from Number 10 for three days.
A source told the paper – which is historically close to the Conservatives – that “they stopped answering their phones. It went on for 36 hours. Number 10 is putting in calls and they are not answering their phones.”
There was no immediate DUP response to the claims.
The party’s ruling Executive met in east Belfast last night where it was expected to be updated on the progress of the talks.
Yesterday DUP sources told the BBC that the extension of the Military Covenant to Northern Ireland – the only part of the UK in which it does not apply – has been agreed by the government.
The Queen’s Speech on Wednesday referred to the covenant, which is meant to ensure that members of the Armed Forces do not lose out, particularly in areas such as housing and healthcare, due to their service, saying that ministers would be “delivering on the Armed Forces Covenant across the United Kingdom”.
Last year former Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft issued the latest of a series of scathing reports about Stormont’s refusal to adequately look after veterans in Northern Ireland. He recommended that Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act – an outworking of the Belfast Agreement to promote ‘equality of opportunity’ – be amended.
Under Lord Ashcroft’s proposals, Section 75 would be amended “to enable service leavers and veterans to receive the recognition and provision they deserve,” bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.