The DUP are prepared to vote against a forthcoming budget at Westminster but won’t risk triggering an election in case a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn finds itself with the keys to 10 Downing Street, a DUP MP has said.
That was the position set out by Sammy Wilson, who last week warned that his party could vote against the Budget unless it gets sufficient reassurances that Northern Ireland won’t be cut off from the rest of the UK by a customs border in the Irish Sea after Brexit.
With no majority in the House of Commons, the votes of the 10 DUP MPs have proved crucial in propping up Theresa May’s government as part of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement reached after the snap general election in June last year.
Asked about the implications of his party withdrawing its backing for the government in the crucial Budget vote later this month, Mr Wilson said: “A lot of people think that it inevitably means there’s going to be an election and there’s this fear that Jeremy Corbyn could take over. Understandably, people are fearful of that, especially if you’re a unionist in Northern Ireland. But that doesn’t necessarily follow.”
He continued: “If the government loses it has one of two alternatives.
“It can either go back and try and fix whatever it was that caused the lost vote, or else it could say ‘this is a confidence issue and we are going to put down a confidence motion’.
“There is no way we would oppose the government in a no-confidence motion because we don’t want a general election. Nor, I think, does the general population.
“At that stage the most likely outcome is that the Conservative Party would say ‘we lost it because nobody liked what Theresa May was proposing, so we’ve got to get rid of Theresa May and get somebody in who will propose something different’.
“The more likely outcome of a Budget defeat would be a change in leadership, rather than a general election.”
Mr Wilson also said that withdrawing his party’s support for Mrs May’s government would not result in a £1 billion financial package agreed as part of the ‘confidence and supply’ deal being lost.
“Most of that financial package has already been delivered,” he said. “It was a two-year deal and the two years is almost up anyway. The consequences for that are fairly minimal. In fact, I suspect that the government, since they would want to get us back on board, would not renege on that deal. Don’t forget, we’ve delivered for them.”