The DUP has retreated from its threat to vote down the Budget, but warned that it could still withdraw its support for Theresa May if she breaches the party’s red lines on Brexit.
Sammy Wilson said Northern Ireland’s £1bn boost from Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Budget will not prevent the DUP pulling the plug on its deal to prop up the minority Tory government, declaring: “We will not be bought”.
Earlier this month, the DUP said they were prepared to block the Budget and potentially topple the prime minister unless they receive sufficient reassurances that there will be no Irish Sea border post-Brexit.
However, Mr Wilson told the News Letter yesterday that “it would be foolish and reckless” for his party to vote down the Budget without firm evidence that the government was planning to concede to the EU’s demand for checks between NI and Great Britain.
The East Antrim MP added: “We will support the Budget. But if anyone thinks a few extra pounds is going to soften our attitude towards any Brexit deal which treats NI differently they are very mistaken.
“We will not be bullied, browbeaten and we will not be bribed. The future of Northern Ireland within the UK is more important than a few bob in your pocket, as the long term consequences of being cut loose from the rest of the UK either constitutionally or economically would be far too devastating.”
DUP Brexit spokesperson Mr Wilson said his party would make a decision on whether to continue its support for the government once it has had sight of the prime minister’s plans for NI.
He added: “We want to see in writing what the government is proposing. We don’t want verbal assurances, summaries or briefings, we want to see what is to be done in writing. At that stage we will make our decision.
“We are not at that stage yet, we don’t know the shape of the deal and it would be reckless of us just to vote against it to teach the government a lesson or give them a warning.
“The issue is much too serious for us to simply throw our weight around. And that is not what we are about anyway, we want to see a stable government in the UK and in Northern Ireland.
“But there is a responsibility on the government to make sure they do not create instability in NI by cutting us loose from rest of the UK.”
There has been speculation that Mr Hammond had been particularly generous to NI in order to soften the blow of the government agreeing to the EU’s backstop proposal.
However, Mr Wilson said he did not believe that was the case, adding: “The government knows all too well where the DUP stands on the issue of the backstop and they know we are not going to be bought.”
Mr Hammond said his Budget will mean additional spending of £320m for Northern Ireland government departments.
The Treasury will also put 350 million into a 15-year investment plan for the Belfast region, known as a city deal, while a one-off £2m payment to help Belfast city centre recover from the major fire in August was also promised.
An additional £300m was pledged for integrated and shared education initiatives.
While Mr Wilson broadly welcomed the Budget, he also felt it was a “missed opportunity to set out a new economic vision for the nation” post-Brexit.